In Texas, filing the petition is followed by a mandatory 60-day waiting period before spouses can be officially divorced.
The decision to get a divorce always gets tough. It’s impossible to get fully prepared for the financial and emotional challenge that comes with this choice. But things may become slightly easier – if you learn what you should expect from a divorce process in Texas beforehand. This will give you enough time for moral and actual preparation, as well as might help you avoid some crucial mistakes.
So, here are 10 steps to getting a divorce in Texas:
Preparing for Divorce
Any divorce starts long before you file the papers with the court, i.e. with preparation. Getting a divorce checklist before the actual process starts is a good way to think through your fortes and weaknesses and build a strong case.
An ideal divorce checklist would include all your steps to getting a divorce in Texas, including securing your assets, finding a good lawyer if you need any, or increasing your chances to get child custody. Don’t be afraid to make it overly detailed. Write down ideas, backup plans, phone numbers, addresses – whatever can help you win the case.
Talking an Uncontested Divorce with the Spouse
An uncontested divorce is the best scenario any couple can get in Texas. The process is relatively fast, can be as cheap as the court fees only, and saves a good deal of stress. Ideally, this is the decision you both will come to. But it will largely depend on your ability to listen to each other and come to an agreement. Only one issue that’s left unsolved will immediately move you to the court room.
Therefore, the next step to getting a divorce is discussing it with your spouse. However, you should be ready that he/she might be against ending the marriage at all.
Hiring Legal Assistance
Whether you go for an uncontested or a contested divorce, you may require some legal help along the way. Hiring a lawyer can save you most of the trouble as they will take care of all bureaucratic and legal issues that occur in divorce.
On the other hand, if you’re having an uncontested divorce, paying extreme lawyer’s fees may be unreasonable. If you need help with your paperwork, consider online legal assistance. Some services that publish printable divorce papers also offer qualified legal help for uncontested divorces.
Filing for Divorce
Preparations are completed, how do I start a divorce process now? In Texas, any divorce process starts with an Original Petition of Divorce. In an uncontested case, the petitioner should also include their Settlement Agreement and the Waiver proving that the other spouse doesn’t need to be served and agrees to every term outlined in the petition and agreement.
In a contested case, the Petitioner may also request a Temporary Restraining Order to secure marital assets and establish a temporary procedure of communicating with the other party and the kids (if any).
A Waiting Period
In Texas, filing the petition is followed by a mandatory 60-day waiting period before spouses can be officially divorced. Even if you are both willing to part ways and agree on all terms, you will still have to wait around 2 months before becoming single.
The term may be shortened or canceled in two cases:
- If the Responder has been convicted of violence against the Petitioner or any member of their household;
- The Petitioner has an active protective order against the Responder based on his/her violent behavior.
Serving the Divorce Papers
After the petition is filed –and if the divorce is contested –, the papers must be delivered to the other spouse. In Texas, there are several ways how you can ensure the service:
- In-person. A sheriff or a private process server must personally deliver divorce documents. Then, the server must complete the Return of Service form with the time and place of the service. Then either file it with the court or send it to the Petitioner to do the same.
- By a registered or certified mail that issues return receipts. The Clerk must mail the papers to the Respondent, who must then sign the return receipt and sent it to the Clerk. The Clerk will then complete the Return of Service form and submit it to the court.
Filing the Answer
Once the Respondent receives the papers, he/she will have 20 days to submit the Answer or the Counterclaim to the court. If the Answer is usually a form where the Respondent would deny the terms of the Petition, the Counterclaim would present the Respondent’s own terms and claims to the court. If after the 20-day period there was no response, the court will likely satisfy all the claims put out in the Petition.
If the parties lack certain information regarding the case, the court may order a discovery process. During this period, the spouses must exchange every single detail that has any relation to their divorce. They may include copies of the checks, text messages, phone records, bank statements, etc.
In a highly contested divorce, the court may oblige spouses to go through mediation. The procedure isn’t mandatory for every case but is likely to be ordered for couples who have minor kids in marriage. The goal of mediation is to help spouses solve their issues in a peaceful environment and come to an agreement. Ideally, a settlement agreement will be signed and a final judgment made based on it.
However, in some cases, mediation doesn’t help and spouses choose to go through a long set of trials before they can finalize their divorce.
A final trial is the last court hearing where the judge will make their decision of divorce. This is the last chance when both parties can present evidence or call witnesses. Here, attorneys will also present their closing statements. The final judgment of divorce will be granted at the end of the hearing.