Marriage and divorce are both very common experiences. Up to 90% of people get married, but between 40 and 50% of them will eventually divorce.
Getting a divorce isn’t easy. It’s emotional and decisions can be hard to make. The last thing you need is to feel confused about the legal process of divorce.
Read on for a step-by-step guide that will lead you through the legal process of getting a divorce in Texas.
File the Petition
First, a Texas divorce requires you to have lived in the state for 6 uninterrupted months. Additionally, one of the spouses must have been a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days.
Step one in a Texas divorce happens with the “Original Petition for Divorce”. You file the petition in your county and pay the court fee, and the clerk assigns a case number.
Legal Notice Is Sent
Now that the petition is filed, the Respondent receives notice that his/her spouse has filed a petition for divorce.
When the petition is served, the Respondent can choose to sign a Waiver of Service to confirm that they received the petition. The waiver isn’t an admission of guilt, however. It is just an indication that the Respondent is aware of the divorce proceedings.
The Hearing Is Scheduled
A Texas divorce can happen in as little as one court hearing where a final decision is made on the issues in the marriage. These issues include how property and debt are divided, child custody arrangements, and child and spousal support. This is an opportunity for the present parties to present evidence to the court on their own behalf.
When the divorce is uncontested, both parties agree on how things should be divided. A divorce is contested if the spouses do not agree on how things should be divided. If the divorce is uncontested and both parties agree to how things should be handled, the Respondent doesn’t have to attend the hearing.
It’s important to note here that Texas IS NOT a 50/50 state. You do not have the right to half of everything gained in the marriage when you divorce. The Texas Family Code allows judges to determine how to divide community property using their own discretion.
The Final Decree Is Signed
After the hearing where all the issues are decided, the divorce decree is signed. There’s no set limit of time for a divorce, but Texas law requires a 60 day “cooling off” period before the divorce is final. Different counties have different requirements for how long you have to wait to get remarried.
When Children Are Involved
Divorce is hard on children, but research shows that they adjust to the divorce within two years. There are issues that arise when a divorce involves children, especially when both parents want custody of them.
In Texas, courts divide child custody issues into two different categories:
- Conservatorship: rights and duties of parents to make decisions for children
- Possession & Access: when parents have physical custody and when the other parent can visit
The court decides what’s in the child’s best interest. The judge will consider the child’s emotional state, household stability, and whether the parents get along. They also consider parenting skills and the child’s safety.
Children over age 12 can speak for themselves and the judges will consider their testimony, but many other factors are considered also. When the parents can agree on physical custody schedules, the courts may not get involved in how custody is shared.
If the parents can’t agree, they can request a trial to have the court determine the custody arrangements. Parents can also participate in mediation.
Hire a Divorce Attorney
Divorce affects all the most important areas of your life: your kids, your property, and your money. Many people decide it’s too much to handle alone and they hire a lawyer to get them through the process.
Some people believe that an uncontested divorce does not require a lawyer, but this is not the case. Even in “straightforward” divorces, lawyers are beneficial.
First, the Texas Office of Court Administration recommends consulting a family law attorney. Hiring a lawyer will make the process easier if you and your spouse don’t agree on divorce issues. Even if you and your spouse agree, hiring a lawyer is beneficial because:
- It saves money in the long run by making sure you get what you deserve
- It’s very difficult to change a divorce order after it’s made
- It can help you maintain a healthier relationship with your children
- It’s easier to come to an agreement when there is a professional involved
- They keep track of your legal documents for you
- They fight for your rights as an individual and as a parent
You should also consider a lawyer if there are domestic violence issues or threats, or if you have a lot of valuable property or debt.
Besides their legal benefit, lawyers offer support during your divorce. They know that this is a difficult time for you, and they work on your behalf to make sure you get the best possible outcome. Your divorce attorney will help you make the best decisions and will do everything possible to make sure you land on your feet when the divorce is final.
Ask For Help
This article answered most of the basic questions about Texas divorces. Filing the petition and receiving/sending legal notice gets the ball rolling, but the legal process during a divorce can be tricky, especially when you are approaching it alone.
If you have limited knowledge of Texas law and how to file for divorce, please don’t hesitate to ask for help. There is so much information to sift through, so knowing the process before you start is helpful in making sure you accomplish everything. Getting a divorce in Texas can be difficult, but you don’t have to navigate it alone.