The Basic Steps to Filing for Divorce in Texas
by Taylor Joeckel
The decision to file for divorce is never easy, but once you have made up your mind, it is important to know your next steps. Here are the basic steps to filing for divorce in Texas:
- Filing the Petition
If Texas has jurisdiction over the parties, the first step in the divorce process is the actual filing of the divorce with the court, which is accomplished by filing an Original Petition for Divorce. The Original Petition for Divorce is the legal document that will officially begin the divorce process in Texas, and it must be filed in the District Clerk’s office in the county where one or both spouses reside.
In Texas, there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period from the time the Original Petition for Divorce is filed with the Court until you are eligible to finalize your divorce. Meaning, the 61st day after a divorce petition is filed is the earliest date you can get divorced in Texas.
Once the Original Petition for Divorce has been filed, the next step is to provide legal notice to your spouse.
- Legal Notice
While simply notifying your spouse of the divorce filing in a conversation or in writing is actual notice of the divorce, it is not the same as legal notice. Legal notice to your spouse is required and it is frequently accomplished by either:
- A Waiver of Service; or
- Service of Citation.
A Waiver of Service is a document that formally enters an appearance in the case for your spouse and waives his or her right to be formally served with the divorce papers. A Waiver of Service does not waive any other rights in the divorce and does not mean your spouse agrees to the allegations in the Original Petition for Divorce. Your spouse will need to sign the Waiver of Service in the presence of a Notary Public after the date the Original Petition of Divorce is filed, and the Waiver of Service must be filed with the court. A Waiver of Service is typically used when spouses are amicable, in communication, and in agreement with the divorce.
If your spouse is unwilling to sign a Waiver of Service, then you will need to provide him or her with legal notice of the divorce through the method of Service of Citation (i.e. you will need to have your spouse served with divorce papers). Service of Citation can be accomplished by having the divorce papers delivered to your spouse by a sheriff, constable, or court-authorized neutral third party (usually a process server). A citation is a legal document that furnishes your spouse with legal notice that he or she is being sued for divorce and is warned to respond to the divorce within a certain time frame and manner.
After you have provided your spouse with legal notice of the divorce, the next step is to determine what the issues are in the divorce.
- Settling the Issues
A Texas Divorce resolves three issues:
- Child Related Issues (conservatorship, possession/access, and child support),
- Division of Property (assets and debts), and
- Ending the Marriage.
Depending on the circumstances, a divorce may require at least one hearing to make a temporary or final decision on the issues at hand. However, if a divorce is uncontested and you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement on all of the issues, a hearing will not be necessary.
Once all the issues are resolved, either by agreement or court order, the Final Divorce Decree will be drafted, signed, and filed with the Court. Prior to COVID-19, courts required at least one spouse, usually the filing spouse, to prove up the Final Decree of Divorce at a hearing. As Texas courts are taking precautions due to COVID-19, some judges are accepting Prove-Up Affidavits for agreed family law cases in lieu of holding a prove-up hearing, and other judges are choosing to hold virtual prove-up hearings or are not requiring hearings at all for cases that are 100% agreed. You should check with the court to see how prove ups are being handled in your jurisdiction.
Once the court signs the Final Decree of Divorce, you will be officially divorced.
Whether you have been married a long or short amount of time, filing for divorce is an important decision. The above information is provided as a basic overview of the divorce process and there can be more complicated circumstances involved in your divorce proceeding. If you are contemplating divorce, contact family law attorney Taylor Joeckel or any of our other KoonsFuller attorneys located in Dallas, Denton, Houston, Plano, or Southlake/Fort Worth. We take great pride in representing our friends and neighbors throughout the State of Texas. We hope that you give us the opportunity to represent you and your family.