What We Cover In This Article
Divorce Laws | Residency Requirements | Grounds for Divorce | Divorce Attorney | Filing for Divorce | Online Divorce | How Long? | Divorce Costs | Custody | Child Support | Alimony | Division of Asset | Common-Law Marriage | Alternatives
Getting a divorce is sometimes inevitable, especially if a couple has grown apart past the point of return. Those who’ve had a divorce will tell you that it’s an energy-sapping, emotionally draining, and confusing process.
If you’re getting a divorce in Texas, the complexity of the state’s divorce laws will only add to your frustration and emotional turmoil.
In this in-depth guide, we’ll highlight everything you need to know about getting divorced in Texas, the state’s divorce laws, and the types of divorce a couple can undergo. We’ll also highlight the significance of hiring a divorce lawyer and the key considerations that come into play as far as alimony and child support are concerned.
Types of Divorce Laws in Texas
In Texas, the legal requirements of marriage and divorce are stated in the Texas Family Code, Sections 6.001 and 7.001.
If your union faces a dissolution, it’s best to understand these laws and how they’ll affect you. This will enable you to make more informed decisions regarding the divorce process and even your future.
Divorce in Texas isn’t subjective in the sense that each case gets reviewed individually. The dissolution of marriages is often done at the state level. The legal requirements for divorce in Texas also include establishing a permanent home in the state for not less than six months, among other regulations.
There are two main types of divorce in Texas (contested and uncontested). Each of these types of divorce is named after the primary method that you and your estranged partner will use to negotiate the dissolution of your union. Here’s a look at these types of divorce:
Uncontested Divorce in Texas
Contrary to what you may think, not all marriage dissolutions involve fighting between the parties and costly legal expenses. In Texas, couples who still communicate amicably and agree on the terms of their separation can opt for an uncontested divorce.
In this type of divorce, both spouses must agree to dissolve their union. Besides, they must agree to ALL the terms of their divorce. The agreement should be reached amicably without any disagreement.
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses can draw up the regular documents on their own or with professional help, before submitting them to a Texas court for approval.
This divorce type can only be uncontested if both parties agree on all the dissolution-related issues. After which, they must sign an agreement to skip the trial before a judge.
An uncontested divorce is often an appealing option to couples without children and those with limited assets to share. Besides being less expensive, it’s also less time-consuming.
Nonetheless, you can still leverage the “agreed divorce” process in Texas if both parties agree on all divorce-related matters, including child support and custody. There shouldn’t be existing court orders relating to child support and custody.
If a Texas court has already issued an order regarding child support and child custody, you’ll only be allowed to request an agreed divorce if the court order includes all the kids you have with your spouse.
The court order shouldn’t be protective or temporary, and neither party should wish to change the order.
The Uncontested Divorce Process
Whether you want your divorce to be uncontested or contested, either spouse should meet Texas’s residency requirements, discussed later in this article. That said, here’s the uncontested divorce process in Texas:
Prepare the Necessary Paperwork
To get started on the uncontested divorce process, both you and your spouse need to fill out the “Original Petition for Divorce.” The document should then be filed alongside other relevant forms with the court clerk at a district court in your county of residence.
The necessary paperwork for the dissolution of marriages in Texas varies from one county to another. Thus, it’s best to confirm the requirements and necessary additional forms in your county with the local court clerk. When you file the paperwork, you’ll be required to pay a filing fee.
Typically, each county in Texas sets its fee schedule when it comes to divorce. So, you may want to confirm the fee with your local court clerk. The upside of getting a divorce in Texas is that if you can’t afford the filing fee, you can apply for a fee waiver. If your request gets accepted, all court fees relating to your case will get waived.
Give the Paperwork to Your Partner
After the Petition for Divorce gets filed with the court clerk, you’re required to deliver it to your partner. They should file an “answer” to the divorce petition within the shortest period. Failure to do so might see the court entering a “default,” which means that the divorce proceedings can continue without your partner’s participation.
However, this is rarely the case in an uncontested divorce because the divorce parties often agree on everything before the proceedings start.
Completing the Divorce
There’s a 60-day waiting period in Texas for a divorce to be complete. Even in an uncontested divorce, 61 days must pass before a judge dissolves your union. After the waiting period elapses, the clerk is required to set a date for a final court hearing with the judge to finalize the divorce.
If you filed all the required paperwork and the settlement agreement is approved, the judge will append their signature to the Final Decree of Divorce.
Your divorce will only get finalized after the judge signs the divorce decree. This may or might not be on the court hearing date. Also, the Texas family and divorce bars divorced spouses from remarrying third parties until 31 days elapse after receiving the decree.
Pros & Cons
If you qualify for an uncontested divorce, using an online divorce service is a great way to save a lot of money. Keep in mind in Texas, divorce can cost over $15,000 in fees if you file for divorce with an attorney.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
Contested Divorce in Texas
A contested divorce involves the spouses disagreeing on crucial matters relating to their separation. Often, this involves a contentious process overseen by a judge. Whenever “divorce” is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is contested divorces. Since a contested process is long, it can even drag on for years, and it’s also expensive.
If you decide to have a contested divorce in Texas, you must remember that the judge, rather than you and your spouse, has the final say.
This may include decisions relating to:
- Child custody
- Division of assets
- Other terms
In a contested divorce, each spouse needs a lawyer to represent their interests throughout the process. So, unless you and your spouse resolve all issues relating to the divorce, the process will be considered “contested.”
Since the judge has the final say, both parties may end up dissatisfied with the final result. Thus, uncontested divorce is often the ideal route to take.
Although the contested divorce process is far from ideal, it’s sometimes the only option in cases where one spouse is:
- Abusive or violent
- Acting in bad faith
- Unwilling to compromise on crucial issues
The contested divorce process is also the final recourse for those who’ve tried an uncontested divorce but have failed to reach the required agreements or compromises for success.
The Contested Divorce Process
These are the high-level steps you need to take during a contested divorce:
1. File the Petition for Divorce
Just like it’s the case with an uncontested divorce, the first step in the contested divorce process is filing the divorce petition. You must specify your reasons for seeking the divorce, the relief, and temporary orders you may need from the court.
After the court clerk receives your petition and all the necessary documents, they will be submitted to the judge for signing (if you requested a restraining order). Afterwards, the papers that need to be sent to your spouse will be prepared.
The citation informs your spouse about the details of your suit. It also explains what’s expected of them when filing a response.
Another crucial document that should accompany the divorce petition is the precept. This is a legal notice issued by the court if a hearing is set and the judge orders the spouses to appear in court on a specific date.
2. Serving The Divorce Petition
A constable, process server, or any other law enforcement officer can obtain the divorce documents from the court to serve your spouse at whatever location you prefer. Once your partner receives the petition, they have until 10.00 am on the first Monday after the expiry of twenty days to file a response to the petition.
Typically, the response includes a denial of the allegations highlighted in the divorce petition.
If your spouse has independent claims to make against you, they may do so in a counter-petition. When getting a divorce in Texas and it’s contested, both spouses may need to hire divorce lawyers.
Hiring lawyers is advisable because these are professionals who help to remove emotional aspects from decision-making. Lawyers also help the spouses to make objective and more informed decisions regarding their lives and those of their children.
3. Temporary Orders in a Contested Divorce
In a contested divorce, temporary orders hearings are part of the initial proceedings. During these mini-hearings evidence gets presented, witnesses may also be asked to testify. The judge will then rule on issues such as child support and child custody during the divorce proceedings.
Temporary orders are meant to help maintain the status quo for the spouses and their children. The orders ensure that bills continue to get paid and that the children can see and spend time with their parents while other issues of immediate significance are dealt with in court.
Preparation for these hearings is crucial to both parties because this is where the attorneys anticipate the weaknesses and strengths of the opposing parties.
Although there’s never an agreement in a contested divorce, there’s still an element of negotiation and compromise. Often, this ends during the mediation process. Whereby the spouses pick an independent attorney with no relation to either side to help them settle all the outstanding issues related to their case.
Mediation is also meant to help both sides to see their weaknesses and strengths heading into a trial. The desired outcome is that both spouses see the benefit of not having a judge making the final say.
Mediation highlights the significance of both spouses engaging with the other party to reach a suitable settlement. Indeed, this is better than having to contend with a court-mandated order.
This is the final stage of the contested divorce process if a settlement hasn’t occurred. A trial is the culmination of months or even years of divorce proceedings. As with other court trials, evidence is presented and arguments are made before the court issues a decision.
Most contested divorce cases get settled at the mediation stage. Therefore, if yours makes it to the trial stage, it’s among the few that fail to agree at some earlier stage.
Regardless of the differences you have with your spouse, it’s always a good idea to settle your contested divorce case before the trial stage. When it gets to trial, the judge may rule based on circumstantial or poorly presented evidence. Also, experienced representation goes a long way in ensuring the success of your case.
Pros & Cons
Texas Residency Requirements for Divorcing Spouses
Regardless of the type of divorce you and your spouse intend to have, it’s mandatory to ensure that you meet Texas residency requirements for divorcing spouses. You must also ensure that the court where you file the divorce petition has jurisdiction to decide the case.
The residency requirements for divorcing in the state are stated under the Texas Family Code (6.302).
According to the Texas Family Code, you must have lived for at least 90 days in the county where you’re filling the divorce. In addition, you must live in Texas for more than six months before filing the paperwork to dissolve your marriage.
Texas statutes address situations in which either you or your spouse may be absent from the state in the months preceding the divorce.
Absence Due to Public Service
You’re allowed to file your divorce paperwork in Texas even if you haven’t lived in the state for six months before the filing date. This mostly applies to those who've been absent while serving in the military on behalf of the state or the United States.
Likewise, you may still file the divorce paperwork in Texas without living in the state for six months if your spouse served in the military and you accompanied them. The time you or your partner have spent in military or public service outside Texas counts as residence in the state if you have a permanent home there.
Are Out-of-State Divorce Filings Allowed?
Typically, divorce starts with a separation whereby couples stop living together. If you and your spouse separate and you relocate to another state and leave the spouse behind, you’re still allowed to file the divorce petition in the Texas county where your spouse resides.
However, your paperwork will only get accepted if the spouse has lived in Texas for more than six months.
Nevertheless, there are certain exceptions to this rule.
Grounds for Divorce in Texas
When it comes to divorce, Texas is a no-fault state. As a result, the petitioner doesn’t need to prove their claim in court for the divorce to be granted.
Petitions for no-fault marriage dissolutions often list “insupportability” as the primary cause. The Texas family law defines insupportability as a marriage that can't be supported because of a conflict or discord of personalities that destroys its legitimate ends besides preventing any reasonable reconciliation.
When divorcing in Texas, it’s best to remember that no-fault divorce isn’t the only option at your disposal. You’re also allowed to file a fault-based divorce in the state. If that’s the case, you’ll need to cite the reasons for the union’s breakdown in the divorce petition.
Whether you’re filing for a no-fault or fault-based divorce, it’s best to work with a lawyer. No-fault divorce filings are common in Texas because they are more straightforward. If you file a fault-based divorce petition, you must prove the claims listed in the divorce paperwork.
No-Fault vs. Fault-Based Divorce in Texas
If your partner’s actions caused the marriage to break down, you can file a fault-based divorce. Common grounds for fault-based divorce in Texas include abandonment, cruelty, confinement in a mental institution, felony conviction, adultery, cruelty and imprisonment of your spouse.
The issue of adultery in Texas is somewhat contentious.
Unlike in states like New York, where adultery is expressly illegal if one of the parties is married to someone else, adultery isn’t illegal in Texas. The state’s law defines it as a voluntary relationship between your spouse and someone else.
So, if you cite adultery as a ground in your divorce case, you must prove that it caused your marriage to break down. A couple can also file a fault-based divorce petition in Texas if they’ve lived separately for more than three years without any instances of cohabitation during the period.
The Legal Ramifications of Fault-Based and No-Fault Divorce Filings
If you file a no-fault divorce petition, you won’t need to prove that your spouse is at fault for your union’s breakdown. Thus, the marriage is bound to end anyway because your partner isn't allowed to contest your claim.
However, the same cannot be said of a fault-based divorce filing. The accused spouse can contest your claim, and this could affect the divorce proceedings. Likewise, the errant partner’s actions can ultimately affect the divorce settlement.
For instance, adultery could prompt the court to award a larger share of the couple’s community property to the non-adulterous partner. Likewise, a felony conviction could lead the judge to grant you sole custody of your children.
Filing a No-Fault Divorce
If you choose to file a no-fault divorce petition, your spouse may agree with your petition that the union has reached the point of being intolerable or insufferable. No further explanation is required when a couple decides to proceed with a no-fault divorce.
Using a Texas Divorce Attorney
Divorce is the most challenging thing anyone can go through. The situation is likely to be even more difficult for you if the divorce is contested and you’re fighting over shared assets and minor children.
Texas divorce attorneys are there to help you at every stage of the process.
So, don’t go through it all alone and end up with an unfair settlement when you can seek help from experts. If you’re thinking about hiring a divorce lawyer but don’t know where to start, here’s what you need to know:
What Makes a Good Divorce Attorney?
There’s undoubtedly no lack of divorce attorneys in Texas. All lawyers you’ll come across have attended law school, but this alone is no guarantee that you’ll receive top-notch representation in your divorce proceedings.
The area of family law, in particular, requires experience and a proven track record, and here are some of the qualities to look out for when hiring a divorce lawyer:
When it comes to client-attorney relationships, honesty is critical. When divorcing your spouse you’ll undoubtedly be undergoing a lot of strain.
Even so, you should always be honest with your attorney about your situation. Likewise, the attorney should be realistic and open regarding your options.
Remember that some divorce lawyers can take advantage of your situation to promise things they can’t deliver. An excellent attorney is honest and desists from making promises and claims they can’t back up.
It’s best to hire a divorce attorney rather than a generalist. Such lawyers have handled similar cases before and, therefore, know what needs to be done to win yours.
The lawyer you choose should be an eloquent speaker who can articulate issues and explain complex legal jargon to you. You’ll know whether a lawyer is a right fit during the first meeting, so don’t overlook your first impressions.
What good is an attorney even if they are professional and honest but always unavailable? During your divorce proceedings, you’ll want to work with an attorney who’s always available to answer any questions you may have.
Indeed, most attorneys handle multiple cases concurrently, but professional ones always organize their schedules to ensure that they are available to clients when need be.
During the initial consultations with attorneys, don’t shy away from asking about their availability and response times. Also, find out whether their law office has support staff who can provide help whenever the attorney is unavailable. This will save you the trouble of unanswered phone calls and emails.
The outcome of your divorce case depends on how your attorney builds it. In particular, a divorce lawyer’s case-building skills come in handy if the divorce is contested.
They will be of great help during the negotiation and mediation, allocation of assets, and even the trial. For this reason, it’s best to work with an attorney who has several backup plans and an idea of how the case is likely to pan out.
Divorce is physically, emotionally, and financially strenuous. The last thing you want is to work with a lawyer who will take advantage of the situation to overcharge you.
When it comes to lawyers, quality is typically determined by price, but that’s not always the case. So, you need to find a lawyer who charges reasonable rates that you can afford and gives your case personal attention to guarantee value for money.
Support and Resources
When you hire a lawyer to handle your divorce proceedings, you’ll undoubtedly not be their only client. Nonetheless, a good attorney is always ready and willing to provide you with all the support and resources you need throughout the process.
The law office should be staffed with experienced support attorneys, legal assistants, and paralegals who will help the lead attorney to prepare adequately for your case and conclude it on time.
How to Find a Good Divorce Attorney
When you’re faced with a divorce, it’s hard to know who to turn to for advice and legal representation. Not many people have any prior experience with lawyers, leave alone divorce lawyers.
Even so, you’ll still need to invest your time, effort, and money in a lawyer who’s best suited for your case. So, here’s how to find a good divorce attorney.
Know What You Want
Before you even start shopping around for a divorce attorney, consider the alternatives to traditional litigation. For instance, meditation is a faster and cheaper way to get divorced.
A good attorney should understand your unique circumstance, but that can only happen if you know what you want in the first place.
Interview and Research Prospective Attorneys
Just like you do when hiring other professionals, it’s also advisable to interview prospective attorneys and research them.
Starting with the initial phone call, find out about their specialization and experience in family law. Don’t forget to ask about the types of clients they represent and their charges.
Watch Out for Red Flags
Most attorneys will try to steer you towards the direction of their expertise and tell you what you want to hear so that they close the deal. If an attorney starts making promises even before they hear the facts regarding your case, that’s a red flag.
Likewise, be wary of lawyers who divulge information about clients whose cases they have handled in the past. The lawyer you appoint should not only treat you with respect but also adhere to professional ethics.
Interview Questions for Divorce Attorneys
Here are some questions you may want to ask a divorce attorney during the initial consultation to determine whether they are suitable for your case:
- Do you specialize in divorce, or divorce is only one of the cases you handle?
- What strategy will you use for my case? How long will it take for the divorce proceedings to conclude?
- Will anyone else at your office be helping out with my case? What’s their availability?
- How much is your legal fee/ will you charge me hourly or after the case concludes?
- What’s the likely outcome of my divorce case?
- What other expenses will I incur during the divorce proceedings? What would be the approximate total cost of the divorce?
Is the Initial Consultation Free?
Most divorce lawyers in Texas offer a free initial consultation. This enables you to determine whether they are best suited for you. Hence, you should be cautious about dealing with lawyers who will charge you for the initial consultation because they are likely to be outright expensive.
Is the Meeting Confidential?
Attorney-client privilege also comes into play in divorce cases. From the initial consultation, the attorney under consideration should guarantee the confidentiality of wherever you tell them. The meeting itself should also be kept confidential.
Pros of Using a Divorce Attorney
During a divorce, you’ll have a lot going on in your mind. Hiring an attorney goes a long way in making things pretty easier for you. Here are some pros of hiring a divorce attorney:
- Access to legal expertise
- Expert assistance and legal representation with custody agreements and asset division
- A lawyer helps you to stay objective and keep emotions out of the proceedings
- The help with the paperwork
- They do the digging and donkey work
- They save you time
Cons of Hiring a Divorce Attorney
- Legal fees can be high, especially if the case drags for a long time.
Filing for Divorce in Texas
Dissolving a marriage in Texas starts with “filing” a divorce petition at a district court in the county where you or your spouse reside. It’s best to follow all the necessary procedures to ensure that the divorce petition gets accepted by the judge. Here are the steps to take:
Pro Tip: The information below is perfect for you to get an overview of the divorce filing process and also use as a guide if you will be filing for divorce on your own. However, if you are using an attorney, their team will typically be taking care of these steps as part of their proper representation of you as a client.
Prepare Your Divorce Forms
As it’s the case elsewhere, the first thing to do when seeking a divorce is gathering the necessary forms and prepare them for submission. If the divorce is uncontested, your spouse should be involved in filling out the forms. In a contested divorce, your attorney will complete the forms. You can download these forms from the Texas State Law Library.
If you want assistance with preparing your divorce forms appropriately and instructions on how to file them correctly, using an online divorce service is a great idea to save a lot of money and hassle.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
Filing Your Divorce Forms
After completing the divorce forms, double-check them to ensure the information is accurate before submitting them to the correct courthouse that has jurisdiction over the case. You also need to pay the necessary filing fee or apply for a waiver when filing your divorce petition.
Serving your Partner
After your divorce paperwork is received, you’ll receive a notification. You should then serve the divorce paperwork to your spouse. However, this isn’t as simple as handing the documents to them because there are steps to follow.
If your spouse receives the papers and isn't averse to the idea of divorce, they will append their signature to the paperwork. The signature indicates that your spouse has accepted the paperwork and will respond to them as required. Often, this is the case in uncontested divorces.
However, if your spouse isn’t willing to append their signature on the divorce papers, you can serve them by mail. In Texas, you also have two other options for serving the divorce papers to your spouse:
- Through a Process Serving Company – If you can’t serve the divorce papers to your spouse in person or via mail, you can hire a process serving company to do the job. Depending on your circumstance, hiring a process serving company could be one of the unavoidable expenses in your divorce proceedings.
- Service Using Law Enforcement – You can contact a law enforcement agency such as the sheriff's office in the county your spouse lives in so that they serve them with the divorce papers. Although this isn’t a free service, it’s way cheaper than hiring process servers.
Financial Disclosures in Texas Divorces
The Texas family and divorce law requires full financial disclosures during divorce, especially if one spouse is seeking child support or alimony payments. However, a divorce can only award alimony if:
- The marriage lasted more than ten years, and the partner seeking alimony can prove that they cannot cater to their basic needs.
- The awarding spouse has a domestic violence conviction
- The spouse seeking alimony cannot provide for themselves due to a mental or physical disability.
- The spouse seeking alimony has custody of a minor or special needs child.
How Do Spouses Disclose Their Financial Information?
In Texas, both partners must provide a disclosure of their finances on an affidavit known as the Proposed Support Decision and Information form. The document plays a critical role as far as alimony and child support awards and calculations are involved.
Generally, the forms provide an overview of each spouse’s financial situation. It’s accomplished by completing several questions regarding their expenses, assets, liabilities, and income.
Since the form is a legal document, both parties must disclose their information accurately lest they are found guilty of perjury.
What Information Should Be Disclosed?
When filling the Proposed Support Decision and Information form, you’re required to list all your income regardless of the source. You’re also required to list your liabilities to allow for qualifying deductions to be made.
Thus, it’s essential to have a divorce attorney by your side when filling the form to determine what needs to be included.
Besides your assets and liabilities, the form may include:
- Health insurance premiums
- Union dues
- Credit card bills
- Car payments
- Mortgage payments
You may also want to disclose all the tangible assets you own, including copyrights, patents, trademarks, and any other form of intellectual property.
Online Divorce in Texas
In the recent past, there has been a significant rise in the number of spouses who opt for online divorces. In particular, this is an ideal option for spouses who have an uncontested divorce and are looking to dissolve their unions cheaply.
If you choose to take the online route, you can either use a divorce lawyer or one of the multiple online sites to fill out the divorce paperwork. These sites are 100% legitimate and provide you with a cheap, quick, and hassle-free way to get divorced.
How to Qualify for an Online Divorce in Texas
In Texas, the online divorce process mainly involves uncontested divorces only. In this case, you’ll start the divorce by downloading and filling out the legal forms that detail how shared assets will be divided as well as child support and custody. When filing an online divorce, you should follow these steps:
- Step 1: Pre-Qualify – Most online divorce sites will ask you simple questions to determine whether you qualify for an online divorce. Typically, the questions involve residency and other basic qualifications for filing for divorce in Texas.
- Create Your Forms – If you meet the requirements, you’ll proceed to answer several questions that form the basis of your divorce documents. These questions entail details of your union and may include financial information and details about your children.
- Review and Sign – Once all the online divorce forms are filled out, print them and send a copy to your spouse to review the paperwork for accuracy. If they agree, they’ll need to sign the documents.
- File the Forms – With an online divorce, you can file the paperwork via an approved electronic filing service or file them at the local courthouse in person.
Do You Still Need to Go to Court?
Although online divorce is generally allowed in the state, not all courts accept online forms. Therefore, you may be required to file the divorce forms in person. Also, you’ll need to pay the necessary filing fees. The court may approve your divorce online without being required to make a court appearance, or you may be called in.
How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced in Texas?
There’s no single answer to this question because each divorce is different. Depending on your circumstances, your divorce may take as little as 61 days or drag on for years. Each divorcing couple faces unique circumstances that determine how long their divorce proceedings will last.
There’s a mandatory 60-day waiting period for divorces in Texas. Hence, the quickest time your marriage can get dissolved is 61 days but this timeframe is highly unlikely to be this short. T
he final step of getting a divorce in Texas is a hearing. During this session, the judge peruses the divorce paperwork and settlement agreement before issuing a divorce decree.
The minimal timeframe for getting divorced in Texas only occurs in cases where the divorce is uncontested. However, most divorces tend to take longer because of issues relating to child custody, asset division, and alimony.
Here’s an overview of the issues that influence the length of a divorce:
Is The Divorce Contested?
If you want your divorce to be concluded within the shortest time possible, agree with your spouse on issues such as asset division and child custody. Contentious divorces tend to drag out. Similarly, if there’s bad blood between the spouses, their divorce is likely to last longer.
The Complexity of the Divorce
When issues such as custody arrangements and child support come into play and the spouses can’t agree on anything, their divorce will take longer since such issues must be negotiated and agreed upon by both parties.
Although Texas is a no-fault state, a divorce can be complicated if one spouse alleges that their partner is at fault. For instance, if there are allegations of domestic violence or adultery, both parties will need time to prove or disprove them. Also, courts tend to take longer to adjudicate such cases.
The Assets That Need to be Shared
Most couples accumulate property during their marriage. One of the issues that make uncontested divorces pretty straightforward is that there are never any assets to share.
However, if you and your spouse have a lot of assets to share, it may take a longer time for the divorce to be finalized.
Valuing and dividing marital assets such as real estate, businesses, and retirement benefits take a long time besides requiring professional help.
Divorce Costs in Texas
Divorces are generally expensive, be it in Texas or elsewhere. However, it’s hard to put a general figure relating to the cost of divorces in the state because there’s usually a considerable disparity between how much different divorces cost.
Some of the factors that determine the cost of a divorce in Texas include:
- The complexity of Matters Being Contested – A contested divorce is likely to cost more due to the complexity of the issues involved. For instance, when you hire lawyers to fight over shared assets, child custody, and alimony payments, the case is likely to drag, translating into more costs. Also, if you have a contentious divorce, there will be more issues to fight over hence, increasing the cost.
- Cost of Legal Representation – Legal fees contribute a large chunk of divorce costs. So, depending on the divorce attorney you appoint, your expenses may be low or high.
- Mediation – Allowing your divorce proceedings to proceed to trial will cost both spouses more money. On the flip side, opting for mediation will help you cut expenses, even if it’s more expensive than having an uncontested divorce.
Getting divorced in Texas can cost a few hundred dollars or many thousands of dollars. It all depends on the route that you and your spouse want to take and whether there are issues you’re contesting over.
According to a recent survey, a divorce in Texas costs $15,600 if no kids are involved and $23,500 if kids are involved. Here’s a breakdown of the expenses involved in Texas divorces:
When filing the divorce petition, you must pay a filing fee to kick off the process. The filing fee you’ll pay depends on the county where you’re divorcing.
Most counties charge a filing fee of $250 to $320, but there might be additional copy fees and paying process servers. If you can’t afford the filing fee, you can still apply for a waiver.
On average, divorce attorneys in Texas have an hourly charge of between $260 and $320. In most cases, the lawyers collect a retainer at the start of a case before drawing their draw after billing you for their time.
If your divorce is contested, you may need to pay more than one retainer because such cases tend to drag for a while before getting concluded.
Most family and divorce lawyers in Texas also offer payment plans and accept credit cards. If you’re concerned about the high fees your lawyer is charging, you can always ask them to cut down on costs such as document preparations.
Those who cannot afford to hire divorce lawyers for full-scope representation should consider hiring those who offer limited-scope representation. Such lawyers will only provide specific services such as drafting your divorce papers and attending mediation sessions.
When it comes to divorces in Texas, there aren’t any considerable litigation costs besides paying for additional attorney time. Nevertheless, if the case proceeds to trial, you may be forced to incur the cost of hiring expert witnesses and even forensic accountants.
So, the litigation costs vary according to the case under review.
Although mediation isn’t as cheap as opting for an uncontested divorce, it’s a better alternative to a divorce trial. It helps the feuding spouses resolve their differences with the help of a neutral mediator and avoid heading to trial. On average, the cost of mediation in Texas ranges between $4,000 and $8,000 and depends on the number of mediation sessions you’ll attend.
The mediation process takes up to three months to complete. During this time, the spouses and their lawyers attend multiple sessions to try and resolve any outstanding issues between them and reach an amicable settlement. This helps them to avoid the costs and stress related to divorce trials.
Online Divorce Service
More divorcing couples in Texas are opting for online divorce services, and it’s easy to see why. Online divorce is pretty quick, straightforward, and can save you a few thousand dollars. You get to avoid the cost of paying attorneys and mediators, making this a little easier for everyone.
If your marriage dissolution is uncontested, you may end up paying as little as $195 to divorce online. However, it’s best to remember that filing charges and other related expenses are not included in this figure.
If you want assistance with preparing your divorce forms appropriately and instructions on how to file them correctly, using an online divorce service is a great idea to save a lot of money and hassle.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
Custody Considerations in Texas
Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code presumes joint custody. However, the best interest of minor children transcends all other considerations. Courts have several options when issuing custody orders.
- Custody can be awarded to either spouse, which means that he/she lives with the children and has the absolute right to make decisions regarding their upbringing
- Joint custody is preferred by Texas courts because it allows children to have a meaningful relationship with their divorced parents
- Joint legal custody means that the kids primarily reside with one parent, but the other enjoys visitation rights
- Shared custody means that the divorced parents share legal custody rights to their kids. Thus, the young ones get to live with each parent for at least 35% of the year.
- Split custody is rarely awarded, but if that’s the case, there should be at least two kids, and each parent will be awarded full custody of at least one kid
Although the court has discretion when making decisions relating to child custody, several factors are always considered. These include:
- The minors’ wishes
- The minors’ current and future physical and emotional needs
- Current and future emotional dangers to the kids
- The divorcing spouses’ parenting ability
- Current assistance programs put in place to promote the kids’ best interests
- Each parents’ current and future plans for the young ones
- The financial or otherwise stability of the proposed permanent home of the kids
- Any omissions or acts on the part of the parents that may deem them unfit to raise the young ones
Typically, courts in Texas award visitation rights to the non-custodial parent via a Standard Possession Order.
It gives the non-custodial parent the right to visit the minors on alternating weekends. They are required to exercise their visitation rights on the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month.
If the divorcing parents reside over 100 miles apart, the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights may be reduced to a one-weekend visit per month. There will also be an additional visitation time at some other time in the month.
Both parents also have the right to spend holidays with their kids and may decide to divide the day in half or alternate the years.
During the summer break, a non-custodial parent is allowed a visitation period of at least thirty days. However, if the parents reside over 100 miles apart yet the non-custodial parent only has a weekend visitation every month, the summer visitation period gets extended to 42 days.
Child Support Considerations in Texas
In Texas, a non-custodial parent has to support their kids financially. The state has implemented basic guidelines for ensuring fair and equitable child support arrangements.
However, when circumstances warrant it, the judge handling a divorce can deviate from those guidelines and act in the best interest of a child.
Factors Used to Determine Child Support Payments
In Texas, parents who pay child support are referred to as the obligors. Under the Texas Family Code § 154.001, obligors’ child support payments depend on these factors:
This is the most crucial determinant in the child support payments you’ll make as an obligor. The higher your income, the more child support payment you’ll need to make, up to a maximum monthly limit.
The state’s child support guidelines stipulate that parents with one child owe 20% of their net monthly income in child support. Furthermore, the income that each parent can earn based on their work experience and level of education influences the amount they’ll end up paying.
Number of Children
Texas courts always consider the number of kids that one spouse needs to care for. For this reason, the percentage of net income you’ll need to pay to the custodial parent will increase if there are more kids to support. For instance, if you have four children, 35% of your net monthly income will go towards supporting them.
Amount of Time The Kids Spend With Each Parent
Divorce decrees in Texas stipulate a parenting plan whenever kids are involved. In most cases, non-custodial parents who spend more time with their kids pay less child support.
Additional Parenting Expenses
Courts always consider most expenses of raising kids separately before determining how much money each parent will pay. For instance, parents are required to contribute to their kids’ health insurance equally.
However, if they have kids with special medical needs, the obligor may be required to incur a share of those expenses.
Judges in Texas also consider other factors when determining the child support payments that obligors need to make. They do this to ensure that an equitable and fair child support plan is crafted.
For instance, if either of the parents has no monthly income but has considerable assets and financial resources at their disposal, they may be required to pay more than what the state’s standardized guidelines stipulate.
Alimony Considerations in Texas
Alimony payments are an ever-present factor in divorces. Either of the divorcing partners can seek alimony to enable them to maintain the standard of living they had during the marriage.
The Texas law only allows post-divorce spousal maintenance if certain conditions are met.
Generally, courts order spousal maintenance if the partner seeking alimony doesn’t have enough property or income to cover their basic needs. Besides, at least one of these circumstances should exist:
- The supporting partner has been convicted of violence against the partner seeking alimony or their children within two years of filing the divorce payments or while the divorce proceeds
- The spouse seeking alimony has a physical or mental disability that renders them unable to make enough money to be self-sufficient
- The marriage has lasted for more than ten years, and the dependent partner can’t earn an income and meet basic needs
- The supported partner is the custodial parent to the couple’s kids, and the young ones require personal supervision or substantial care due to a physical or mental condition ( Fam. Code Ann. § 8.051).
What Factors Determine Alimony Awards?
Whenever an alimony-related case is presented at a Texas courthouse, the first presumption is that spousal maintenance isn’t appropriate.
Nevertheless, if the requesting spouse demonstrates they have made an effort to earn an income and become financially independent during the divorce but still need support, the court will proceed with an alimony evaluation.
The law also requires judges to adhere to strict guidelines when determining the duration of alimony and maintenance awards. For instance, if a judge orders a spouse to pay alimony to a partner suffering a mental or physical disability, the support can continue for as long as the said condition exists.
However, regular court-ordered review orders of the maintenance order can be held at any time.
Division of Assets in Texas
The division of assets is arguably one of the contentious issues that cause divorce proceedings to last longer than expected. After all, the resolution of the issue determines how easily and comfortably you can move on with your life after the divorce.
According to Sec. 7.008 of the Texas Family Code, all the property accumulated during a marriage doesn’t belong to a specific spouse. Instead, the property is part of the marital community estate, which comes to an end due to the dissolution of the marriage.
During the divorce, property that’s part of the marital community estate is subject to a “right and just division’ between the spouses.
However, this doesn’t mean a fifty-fifty split of the estate. Instead, Texas courts consider several factors that may warrant a deviation from an equal division of the marital community estate. These factors include:
- Duration of the marriage
- Each spouse’s health, abilities, and capabilities
- The benefits that the not-at-fault spouse would have enjoyed if the union endured
- The age difference between the partners
- The nature of the assets in question
- The size of each party’s separate estates
- Differences in the spouses’ incomes and earning ability
That said, you may be wondering about the types of property subject to the just and right rule during a divorce. Well, here’s an overview of how different types of property are divided during a divorce in Texas:
Since Texas is a community property state, the real estate portfolio that the divorcing couple built during their marriage belongs to both of them. At the end of the case, the judge will split your real estate portfolio before signing the final decree of divorce.
The decree lists the community property that each spouse gets to keep. In some circumstances, the judge may order community property such as the couple’s house to be sold and the proceeds split. It also lists the debts that each spouse should pay.
Although the final decree of divorce splits your real estate portfolio, you’ll still need to take additional measures after the divorce to transfer real estate deeds. If the divorcing spouses agree on how to split their property, the judge has no option other than to approve the agreement.
401k, IRA, Investments
Dividing intangible financial assets such as retirement benefits can be challenging because these assets are often inaccessible at the time of divorce. For instance, if you have some money in a 401k account, it won’t be accessible immediately.
Retirement benefits earned by either spouse in the course of the marriage are considered community property. Therefore, the court can also divide it even if the spouse is yet to retire.
When dividing these assets as part of your divorce in Texas, you must include detailed information about the assets in your final decree of divorce. If you agree to divide these retirement benefits, the judge will sign a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).
The document should be prepared before you go to court so that the judge signs it alongside the final decree of divorce.
After signing the QDRO, a certified copy should be sent to a retirement plan administrator. Remember that retirement assets cannot be divided until the administrator receives a certified copy of the QDRO signed by a judge.
In Texas, businesses built during a marriage should be included during the division of marital assets. Judges often consider business and even professional practices in the valuation and division of marital assets.
The hardest part of assessing the value of a business is in valuing “goodwill.” This is the intangible value of a business based on its reputation and name. Business valuation experts are often used to determine the value of a business before splitting it between the divorcing spouses.
When issuing the final decree of divorce, the judge often splits any other assets garnered during the marriage according to the principles used to divide real estate, retirement benefits, and businesses. Usually, a divorcing couple will need to discuss how these assets will be shared among them.
For instance, they can decide to trade-off valuable items that hold sentimental value to them. In this regard, one spouse can choose to take the sofa and allow the other to take the family dog with them.
Common-Law Marriage Considerations in Texas
In Texas, marriages don’t always start with exchanging vows. The state also recognizes informal marriages (common-law marriages). In this case, no marriage ceremony is held and neither does a government official sign a marriage license.
If you take this route, you’re still considered married just like someone who had a traditional marriage ceremony. However, during the divorce, evidence needs to be presented showing that you were in a husband and wife relationship.
Furthermore, the state doesn’t treat your union any less than those that got formalized in church or at a courthouse. The tricky part about common law marriage is that you can be in it without realizing you’re married in the first place.
Besides, Texas doesn’t have a time requirement for how long you and your spouse should cohabit before you’re regarded as a married couple.
Common-Law Marriage Divorces
In a common-law marriage, the implications of your union will only come to light when you decide to part ways and there are assets to share and kids to raise. Generally, ending a common law marriage in Texas also means filing for a divorce.
However, the hard part is proving that the two of you were married and not just intimate with one another.
The Texas Family Code Chapter 2.401 stipulates that for divorce to be granted, a couple in common law marriage must prove these conditions:
- They agreed to get married
- They lived together as husband and wife in Texas after agreeing to get married
- They represented themselves to others as a married couple
If these conditions are proved, your divorce will pan out just like any other divorce. For this reason, rules regarding the division of assets, child custody, child support, and alimony will come into play.
Alternatives to Divorce in Texas
Contrary to what you might think, not all divorce proceedings end in divorce. So, if your relationship ends amicably and you don’t want to take the divorce route, there are other alternative ways of moving on to the next chapter in your life.
These alternatives not only save you money but also the time and effort that would have been spent navigating a long and endless divorce process. Here’s a look at the alternatives to divorce in Texas
Collaborative Law Divorce
This is among the newest alternatives to divorce in Texas. If you choose a collaborative divorce to annul your marriage, both you and your spouse are required to sign an agreement resolving the divorce without litigation.
Collaborative divorce focuses on amicable communication between the former couple and allows them to focus on finding solutions to their marital woes and issues relating to their separation rather than apportioning blame.
Thus, it goes a long way in ensuring that the separating couple has a peaceful divorce settlement.
When you choose to undergo a collaborative divorce in Texas, both parties will still need to hire attorneys for legal representation and counsel.
Nonetheless, the information exchanged between the parties involved doesn’t require a formal process. Instead, all that’s needed is a raft of meetings and deadlines to ensure an efficient and hassle-free separation.
Unlike traditional divorce, litigation, or arbitration whereby the judge may need to make the final decision regarding the dissolution of the union, custody, alimony, and the division of assets, a collaborative divorce only requires the spouses and their lawyers to resolve their issues without court intervention.
If the process fails, they are required to restart it with a new set of lawyers.
In Texas, divorce arbitration is the most common alternative to traditional divorce. It’s also similar to the traditional dissolution of marriage.
In this case, an arbitrator (typically a retired judge or attorney) steps in as the acting judge and listens to the divorcing spouses’ evidence and supporting testimony before making a ruling.
Before you consider taking this route, it’s best to remember that divorce arbitration can either be binding or non-binding. Therefore, the parties need to agree beforehand on whether the process will be binding.
Likewise, they must work together to appoint an independent arbitrator who will oversee the process. Since divorce arbitration isn’t any different from typical divorce proceedings, the spouses should hire attorneys to represent them.
The main advantage of choosing divorce arbitration is that the process is more efficient, faster, and provides more privacy than courtroom divorces.
Hence, it’s more a stress-reliever than a traditional divorce. However, arbitration doesn’t strongly favor a cooperative approach, unlike the case with collaborative divorce and divorce mediation.
This alternative to traditional divorce encourages the separating couple to work together and find a resolution regarding how they want their marriage to end. Therefore, divorce mediation is a far cry from the traditional divorce model, which favors the adversarial process.
In Texas, it’s common to see judges ordering a mediation when divorcing couples disagree on pertinent issues such as child custody. Often, this happens when there's no history of domestic violence.
During a mediation divorce, the mediator helps the couple to reach a resolution that’s fair and agreeable to both parties. This goes a long way in ensuring a peaceful and stress-free divorce for all parties involved.
The divorce mediator is often a neutral third party. Nonetheless, he/she doesn’t advise the couple or make any final decisions.
A divorce mediator doesn’t need to be an attorney. It could be a social worker, a psychologist, a marriage counselor, or even a divorce financial planner. The individual is chosen by the parties involved.
The couple can also agree to proceed with the mediation without involving lawyers. Generally, the mediation model is flexible because it either complements a litigated divorce case or can be an independent event.
Nontraditional Divorce Agreements
This approach to marriage dissolution allows a couple to draft the so-called ‘agreement incident to divorce.” The court will then review this document but keep it out of public archives.
A nontraditional divorce agreement is ideal for couples who are unable to undergo traditional divorce or want to keep their personal information and the value of their marital assets private after separating.
Since few contentious issues are involved in this type of divorce, the process tends to be quick and hassle-free.
Temporary Injunctions and Orders
If a couple decides to split but doesn’t want to undergo traditional divorce, either of them can obtain temporary orders and injunctions as an alternative to divorce.
These provide financial protections while allowing the couple to resolve issues regarding their children until they choose to have a formal divorce.
The aforementioned alternatives to divorce in Texas provide similar outcomes to what you’d get if you choose to have a traditional divorce in Texas.
For instance, they provide financial support, visitation, child support, and even property orders, but without forcing you to get a divorce. They also come in handy during the proceedings before your divorce is finalized.
In most states, a couple whose marriage has broken down can have a legal separation as an alternative to divorce. However, this doesn’t apply in Texas. You can’t have a legal separation in the place of a divorce.
In Texas, marriage ends through divorce, death, or annulment. The former is akin to having the union declared null and void. Unlike a divorce which ends a valid marriage, an annulment seeks to end a union that shouldn’t have been approved in the first place. Common grounds for marriage annulment include:
- If either of the spouses is underage
- If either couple was forced, coerced, or threatened to get married
In an open marriage, both spouses agree to have sexual relationships outside their union. Texas allows such arrangements because adultery isn’t illegal in the state. However, such arrangements may affect the division of assets during a divorce.
READ MORE: Dating During Divorce
Work It Out Together
Sometimes, married couples toss around the idea of divorce during their argument. This is normal and doesn't mean that divorce should be explored when it comes up during an argument.
Once things cool down, most couples realize that such utterances were made in the heat of the moment and thus choose to shelve the idea of getting a divorce.
Sometimes, all it takes to resolve marital differences is to seek marriage counseling. When a feuding couple approaches counseling with the right attitude and an open mind, they often end up resolving their issues without taking the divorce route.
Considering a divorce can really take an emotional toll on even the strongest people.
If you are in need of therapy with both privacy and convenience, we recommend Online-Therapy.com. Their incredible service gives you access to instant professional help, on any device, wherever you are in the world.
A couple that decides to pursue a parenting marriage ceases to be in a traditional intimate union. Instead, they choose to stick together just to raise their kids.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.