So, you and your spouse have decided that your marriage is over, but neither one of you is feeling particularly confident navigating Texas divorce law. Well, I’m here to tell you that you are by no means alone.
The divorce process can be really confusing, and we can’t all be family law experts. Luckily, you probably don’t have to be (even if you’re iffy about hiring a divorce attorney), because quick and easy online divorce is more accessible than ever.
However, it’s worth mentioning that online divorce unfortunately just isn’t right for everyone. The first question you’ll need to ask yourself is whether you’re looking at a fault or no-fault divorce.
In a fault divorce, one spouse alleges that wrongdoing on the part of the other spouse is why the marriage is ending. The party alleging fault must then prove it in court.
That means that a fault divorce case cannot be completed online. Assuming you and your spouse have decided not to allege fault, you’ll then want to consider whether you are looking at a contested or uncontested divorce.
In a contested divorce, you and your spouse require help from the court to reach a settlement agreement. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse manage to either work things out on your own or through alternative mechanisms like mediation or a collaborative divorce process.
As you may have guessed, online divorce isn’t available to couples undergoing contested divorces, either. However, if you check both the “uncontested” and the “no-fault” box, then online divorce just might be the fastest, cheapest, and least stressful way to end your marriage.
How to File a Divorce in Texas Online
Step 1: Make sure you meet the residency requirement
Before you can begin your online divorce in Texas, you’ll need to make sure that you meet the state residency requirement. In short, either you or your spouse must have been a Texas resident for at least six months prior to filing.
Additionally, you will need to have been a resident of the county in which you are filing for at least 90 days.
This prevents parties filing for divorce from “forum-shopping” for a county court that will be favorable to them. Residents of Tarrant County are required to file in Tarrant County, residents of Harris County must file in Harris County, and so on, and so forth.
One more quick note about forum: Texas law has different trial courts for different types of cases. When filing for divorce, you will most likely be interacting with your local district court and its respective district clerk.
Step 2: File the petition
The first divorce form that you will encounter in your Texas divorce is known as the petition.
The petition, like all other Texas divorce forms, is available for download on your local court website. Once filled out, you will be responsible for filing it with the court clerk (either in person or via electronic filing).
You will also be responsible for paying a filing fee at this time.
Now, what if you or your spouse takes one look at the initial divorce papers and wants to run screaming for the hills? Well, don’t lawyer up yet, because luckily there are a number of online divorce services (including It’s Over Easy) willing to fill out your Texas divorce papers for you.
These services vary a little bit in terms of what they offer -- some simply fill out the divorce papers, while others manage the divorce process from start to finish. Usually, they charge a flat fee, which may or may not include court fees.
That’s why it’s super important to do your research and make sure to calculate the court cost into your price comparison.
Remember, an online divorce service is not an attorney, and they are not able to provide you with specific legal advice, but they still can be a huge help to you in this time of need.
Step 3: Serve your spouse
Once you’ve completed the petition, you will need to serve your spouse with the divorce documents that you just filed with the appropriate Texas court clerk.
Service can happen in three ways. First of all, you can have your spouse served in person by a constable, sheriff, private process server, or court clerk.
Alternatively, you can serve your spouse by mail if you get approval from the court to do so. This usually means demonstrating some sort of inability to provide in-person service.
Finally, if you are unable to locate your spouse after due diligence, then the court may grant you approval to notify your spouse by publication. This entails publishing notice of your divorce proceedings in a local newspaper.
While you are technically able to proceed with a DIY divorce regardless of your method of service, you might want to find a lawyer if in-person service isn’t an option. That way, you’ll have expert help in obtaining the court approval needed for the other two methods.
Step 4: Wait for your spouse to respond
After your spouse receives the petition and accompanying documents, they will be responsible for filling out and filing their response. They have 20 days to do so, after which you may proceed with your divorce in their absence.
Step 5: Reach an agreement
Assuming that you have been able to locate your spouse, the two of you will need to work out a divorce agreement subject to court approval before you can be issued a divorce decree.
Since you’re undergoing an uncontested divorce, maybe you and your spouse already have an idea of what you want that agreement to say. If not, you can seek professional help in sorting out issues like property division, spousal support, child support, and child custody.
While we wish that every divorcing couple could negotiate peacefully and easily, sometimes it’s just not that simple. For instance, issues around children can be highly emotional, so couples negotiating child support and custody are a lot more likely to need help from a third party.
However, even if child support and custody are at issue in your divorce, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to take your disagreements to court. Mediation can be a great option for divorcing couples who want to work together but are finding the process a little challenging.
Step 6: Obtain a final decree of divorce
Now, we know that you’re here to learn about filing for divorce online, but unfortunately, Texas law does require you to make one court appearance at the end of the process in order to obtain your divorce decree.
Thankfully, this final hearing is generally pretty quick and easy. The purpose is mostly just to verify the details of your case before a decree is issued and your divorce is entered into the state divorce records.
The best thing about this hearing, though, is that when you leave the courtroom, you will be DONE!
How much does it cost to file for divorce in Texas online?
In Texas, filing fees vary by county, but you generally can expect to pay about $300 in court fees.
On top of that, online divorce platforms generally charge between $300 and $2000 depending on how comprehensive the service is. The low end will get you completed forms with no guarantee, while at the high end, services promise to bring your divorce to completion.
Can you get a divorce in Texas without going to court?
You will be able to get through most of the process on the couch in your PJs, but you and your spouse will be required to attend a single hearing in order to finalize your divorce.
Do you need a lawyer to file for divorce in Texas?
While an attorney might make sense depending on the ins and outs of your case, you are by no means required to hire a lawyer in order to get divorced in Texas.
When you choose not to have an attorney represent you, it’s known as a pro se divorce. Unsurprisingly, you can expect to save a lot of money when you make the decision to forego representation.