Divorce is a legal proceeding to dissolve a marriage that frees married couple from all matrimonial obligations. The most common issues resolved in a divorce are:
- division of community property (and debt)
- Determination of parental rights
- Possession and access of children, and child support
Here are the 10 important points you should know before filing for divorce to any courts in Texas.
1# You and/or your spouse must have lived in Texas
Consider following points to determine whether you are eligible to file in Texas courts.
- You and / or your spouse must have lived in Texas for at least six months.
- You must file in the county where either you or your spouse has lived for atleast 90 days before filing the divorce petition.
- Divorce case should be filed in County District clerk.
2# Know whether your Divorce is contested or uncontested
Divorce is contested if:
- You and your spouse don’t agree about getting the divorce.
- There is conflict on dividing your property and debts.
- There is conflict on what to do with your children.
Your Divorce is uncontested when:
- You and your spouse agree on all of the issues in your divorce case.
- Your spouse does not file an answer with the court after being officially served with your divorce paperwork.
3# Be aware of legal terms used in Divorce processing
Following are some legal terms you should be aware of while processing for divorce case.
- Affidavit of Indigency
- If you are poor, or on government benefits because you are poor, or you cannot pay court fees, you may fill out this form to ask the Court if you can file for divorce without paying the court and filing fees. The Court may ask you to present evidence of your income and expenses at a hearing. The Court may or may not decide to let you file without paying. It is also called a “Pauper’s Oath” or an “Affidavit of Inability to Pay Costs”.
- ADR Statement
- Short form of Alternative Dispute Resolution Statement. It is a written statement to the court which states that you and your spouse will try to resolve the issues in the divorce before asking Judge to make the decision.
- Amicus Attorney
- An Attorney appointed by the court to represent the best interest of the child.
- Attorney Ad Litem
- An Attorney appointed by the court to represent the wishes of the child as he would for an adult client.
- Child Support
- Money paid by a parent to help the other parent support the child.
- Community Property
- Property owned by both you and your spouse during the marriage. This property may be divided during divorce proceeding.
- The husband and wife generally, who has filed a court appearance in the divorce.
- A legal paper that initiate your divorce case and tells the court what you and your spouse want.
- The person who files for the divorce.
- Pro Se
- A person representing himself / herself to the court without the help of Attorney.
- The spouse of the person who filed for divorce.
4# Find a Lawyer for your case or seek advice from them if you represent yourself
It is better and strongly recommended to find a lawyer to handle your Divorce case if:
- You and your spouse do not agreee on all the terms and issues in divorce also known as contested divorce.
- Your spouse has a lawyer.
- You are afraid for your safety or your chilren’s safety.
- You are unsure how to divide property such as retirement and real estate correctly.
However, you can represent yourself in a court without a lawyer also known as Pro Se if :
- You and your spouse do agree on all the terms and issues in divorce also known as uncontested divorce.
- You are aware of current law, including the current version of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedures, the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the Texas Family Code, the local Rules of the county where you will file for Divorce case.
- You know how to represent yourself infront of judge in a court.
Getting a Divorce can be complicated. If you make a mistake, it could affect your children, your property, and your income. Try to consult a lawyer about your legal rights before you file your Petition for Divorce. There are some lawyer who will “guide” you to represent yourself and only charge for the services you request. Other lawyers are available only if you hire them to handle every step of the case.
Followings are the list of some useful links to get legal advice or help :
- County Law Libraries
- University Law Libraries
- Legal Assistance Organizations
- Legal Clinics
- Legal Hotlines
- Public Libraries
- Law Libraries of Other States
- Find a Lawyer
5# Complete Divorce Forms
Based on your type of divorce case and requirements, please click here to find the appropriate forms to file a divorce case. It is recommended that you start your case by filling Original Petition for Divorce form. If you cannot pay the court fees because of your financial isues, you must fill up Affidavit of Indigency form at first and submit it to the court. The clerk will then decide whether you are eligible to file a Divorce case for free which waives court and clerk fees.
6# File the Petition
The spouse filing the petition is called Petitioner. The petition is filed with the court to begin your Divorce. Following things should be included in your petition.
- Your and your spouse current address. This allows the court to contact you if needed.
- Date of your marriage with your spouse.
- Date you seperated from each other. This date can be approximate date if you don’t know the exact date.
- Other details asked in the form.
7# Notify your Spouse
After the Petition for Divorce is filed and stamped, you should legally notify your soon to be ex-spouse ( the Respondent). You must serve the Respondent in one of the following ways:
- Have the Respondent sign a waiver of citation also known as Waiver of Service.
- Hire a private process server of a county constable to personally serve the Respondent with a “citation” which is formal notice of the filing of the Petition for divorce prepared by the District Clerk
- If, after a diligent search, you cannot locate the address of the Respondent, you may request the court order that the Respondent be served by publication or posting.
You can wait 20 days after the date your Respondent is Served. If the Respondent doesnot sign Waiver of citation, it is possible for you to move forward with the divorce without notice to the Respondent until after the case is final.
Note: The waiver is valid only if it is signed by the Respondent after the Petition for Divorce has been filed.
You must wait atleast 60 days after the petition for divorce is filed to court inorder to get divorce. During this time period:
- You and your spouse may try to reach an agreement regarding the terms and specifics of the divorce.
- Reaching an agreement may prevent an outside party (usaually a Judge) from making a decision regarding your life, property and relationship with children.
- The court, on its own motion, or the motion of either party, after notice and hearing, may grant temporary orders regarding divorce issues.
- If your spouse donot agree to the divorce terms the court tries to settle the resolution which is called meditation. Meditation is a non-binding, confidential process that may be done at any time during the divorce proceedings. A mediator is a third party appointed by the court or by the parties agreement who assist in finding common solution acceptable to both parties.
9# Prepare about how you present yourself in the court
You must be present in a court during a divorce proceeding. Here are few simple rules regarding manners you should prepare yourself before going to court or addressing the judge.
- Always Dress Nicely.
- Men should wear pants and a shirt with a collar. If you have them available, a suit, jacket or tie always look good.
- Women should wear a dress, skirt or pants that are not too tight, too short or too revealing.
- Never wear shorts, t-shirts, sandals, sunglassees, a hat or excessive make-up or jewelry to court.
- When speaking in the court, speak clearly, politely, slowly and loud enough to be heard by others in the court room.
- Never interrupt anyone, especially the Judge.
- Always address the Judge with “Your Honor”.
- When addressing to someone else, refere to him or her as “Mr.” , “Mrs.”, “Ms.”.
- Turn off your cell phones or keep them in silent mode.
10# Concluding Divorce Proceedings
After 60 days waiting period ends, you may set your case for a final hearing anytime. You should call the court to find out when the judge hears the divorce. On the day of final hearing , you should bring the following documents:
- original Final Decree of Divorce
- The Employer’s withholding order if child support is an issue
- Waiver of Service
- Other supporting documents.
Your divorce case is considered final as soon as the judge signs and dates the Final Decree of Divorce. Because you and the Respondent have thirty days to appeal the judge’s decision, neither you, nor the Respondent may re-marry again until that thirty days period has passed.