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How Divorce Works In Texas

The Texas divorce process begins when one spouse files a petition with the Texas court. The formal name for this initial piece of divorce paperwork is the Original Petition for Divorce, but it operates no differently than a divorce petition in any other state.

In this divorce petition, the filing party has the opportunity to request that the court put in place certain preliminary terms of the divorce, including things like child support, child custody, parenting time, and spousal support. Even if granted, these divorce terms will probably not stay exactly the same after the issuing of a final divorce decree.

The petition also includes a box that the filing spouse (also known as the petitioner) can check if he or she believes that his or her spouse will be willing to sign a waiver of service. If the other party (known as the respondent) does agree to sign such a waiver, then the petition will not need to be formally served. Instead, the filing spouse can simply hand the initial divorce papers over to the respondent for review.

Texas law also allows for a second more comprehensive waiver known as a global waiver. If one signs a global waiver, then they waive their right to be formally served as well as their right to receive any further notice or information about the divorce case. Any respondent who signs a global waiver will not have the opportunity to tell their side of the story in court, so you should only consider signing one if you are undergoing an amicable uncontested divorce and you trust your spouse to handle the entire divorce filing on their own.

The petition also includes a section in which the filing party must identify all of the divorcing couple’s assets, including either spouse’s individual property as well as any marital assets that both parties share. It is extremely important that the petition accurately reflects what the divorcing couple owns. If the petition is found to exclude or exaggerate assets, then there can be very negative consequences for the spouse who filled it out.

Finally, the spouse who files the petition has the opportunity to allege fault on the part of their spouse or opt for a no-fault divorce. No-fault divorces are generally much faster, easier, and less costly than fault divorces, so you will want to consider carefully how important it is to you to prove wrongdoing. An experienced divorce attorney can help you make this decision, as they will be able to tell you if you have a strong case for fault in the first place. If you call up a local family law firm, you should be able to set up an initial consultation with ease.

Once the petition has been filed, the divorce proceeding is officially underway. If you haven’t already, you will now want to decide what sort of divorce process you would like to pursue. For instance, do you and your spouse each want to hire a divorce lawyer to argue on your behalf in court? Perhaps you want the help of your own attorney, but you would like a more peaceful negotiation process, in which case collaborative law is a great option for you. If you think that you and your spouse can truly work together to reach a settlement, then you might be a good candidate for mediation or DIY divorce.

Uncontested Divorce in Texas

Texas divorce law allows couples to opt for either a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce.  In a contested case, each spouse must hire a lawyer in order to resolve every legal issue about which the parties disagree, including things like child support, child custody, spousal support, and the division of marital property. Sometimes this means leaving these decisions up to the court, but more often the parties are able to reach some sort of agreement before trial.

If you’re interested in an uncontested divorce Texas law poses no obstacle. In an uncontested divorce case, the divorcing spouses already agree on these issues at the time of filing for divorce, so they are able to simply submit their agreement to the court for approval prior to issuing a final decree. As a result, the uncontested divorce process is much less costly and time consuming.

It is not really necessary to hire an uncontested divorce lawyer. Many people manage to fill out their divorce forms on their own. However, an uncontested divorce attorney can help guide you through the divorce process if you would like. 

A happy medium is online divorce. An online divorce platform is usually much less expensive than an attorney, but they can help you fill out divorce forms and sometimes even track your case from the petition to the final decree. Online divorce services can do just about anything short of offering formal legal advice. You also might appreciate the fact that opting for an online divorce means you’ll never have to set foot in a law office or a court.

Texas is a Community Property State

Texas is a community property state, meaning that most property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be split 50/50. Texas divorce courts, however, also show a preference for splitting property in a manner which they deem “just and right,” which sometimes allows them to take a closer look at the circumstances specific to the marriage before making a determination. 

Some of the factors they consider include fault, the age and health of both parties, tax consequences, contribution to the acquisition of the property, the potential income of each party, custody arrangements, and the spousal support amount that one spouse might be paying. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will be able to decide how to split up your assets yourself, and the court will simply approve your plan before issuing a divorce decree.

Texas Grounds for Divorce

When you file for divorce, you will have the opportunity to designate the grounds for divorce in your divorce forms. If you would like to end your marriage but neither you nor your spouse wishes to accuse the other of any marital misconduct, then you are eligible for a no-fault divorce.

Alternatively, Texas state law allows you to file a fault divorce for the following four reasons: adultery, cruelty, abandonment, and felony conviction. If you do choose to allege fault, then you will be required to prove it in a court of law. As a result, alleging fault is not an option if you want an uncontested divorce case.

Texas Residency Requirements

In order to get divorced in Texas, at least one spouse must have resided in the state for at least six months prior to filing the petition with the county court. Residency is usually proven by sworn affidavit.

Texas "Cooling Off" Period

Texas law requires that at least 60 days pass between when the petition is filed and when a divorce decree is issued. This “cooling off” period represents the absolute minimum amount of time that it can take to end a marriage under the law. In practice, even uncontested divorce proceedings tend to take a few weeks from the date the petition is filed to the date that the court issues a final decree.

Texas Filing Fees

Divorce filing fees vary by county in Texas. Generally, you can expect to pay about $300 to file a divorce petition. There may be additional fees depending on the nature of your case. This figure does not include the cost of an attorney, mediator, or online divorce platform; it only represents the amount that you will owe directly to the court.

Texas Spousal Support

Spousal support is never a given in Texas. A support order will only be administered by the court if the dependent spouse is deemed incapable of providing for their basic needs AND at least one of the following is true: the would-be payor has been convicted of domestic violence, the dependent spouse is disabled, or they have custody of a disabled child. Even if these circumstances apply, support is never mandatory, and judges will make their determinations based on factors including each spouse’s future earning capacity, the age and health of the parties, any marital misconduct, the length of marriage, tax consequences, property distribution, and the education of each spouse.

Texas also does not mandate any sort of uniform duration for spousal support to continue, but it does tend to bear a relationship to the length of the marriage. As far as the amount goes, there is one hard and fast rule: the court will never order spousal support that is more than $5000 per month or 20% of the payor’s income.

Texas Child Custody

If you and your spouse cannot reach a child custody arrangement amongst yourselves, Texas courts just want to figure out what’s in the best interest of the child. This usually means some sort of child custody arrangement, even if it isn’t 50/50. Factors in determining what exactly that arrangement should look like include each parent’s ability to care for the child, the child’s preference, the child’s safety, the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s current living situation, any past violence, and any ongoing conflict between parents. If one parent for some reason ends up with sole custody, court-ordered visitation is still a possibility.

Texas Child Support

In Texas, court-ordered child support will last until age 18 or high school graduation, whichever is later. Texas has a specific formula for determining the presumptive amount of child support based on the income of both parents and the way that parenting time is divided. If you and your spouse have not reached an agreement yourselves and the court is ordering that you pay the presumptive amount, you are still free to make the argument if you believe that amount to be unfair. The court will consider your family’s individual circumstances with regard to each parent’s resources and the child’s individualized needs, and it may turn out that a different figure makes more legal sense.

Texas Co-Parenting

For couples with kids, one of the most important aspects of negotiating a marital settlement agreement is developing a parenting plan. This plan will outline whether custody and parenting time will be shared equally or one parent will be the child’s primary caregiver. You can visit www.custodyexchange.com for examples of common co-parenting schedules.

 

Online Divorce Info on Other States

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Texas Divorce & Coronavirus

 

Texas courts are currently operational, although some services are being conducted via videoconference. Emergency response and social distancing protocols vary by county, so click here to find the specific plan in place for your local court. There may also be court delays associated with the current public health crisis. If you opt for an online divorce with  It’s Over Easy, your divorce will most likely be unaffected by COVID-19.