Divorce in Texas: everything you need to know

1 min readLast updated April 3, 2024by Charlie Barton

This guide will take you through the process of getting a divorce in Texas, including the grounds for divorce, how much it will cost, and how to file.

Summary

  • Texas is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning you do not have to prove who was at fault when filing for divorce.

  • The average cost of a divorce in Texas is approximately $15,600, although this will vary depending on your unique situation.

  • One spouse must have lived in Texas for six months and the county for 90 days before filing.

  • A financial advisor can help you navigate your finances during a divorce and rebuild afterward.

What are the grounds for divorce in Texas?

Texas is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning you do not have to prove who was at fault when filing for divorce.

Need help managing your finances after divorce?

A financial advisor can guide you through your financial recovery both during and after your divorce.

When divorcing, you can choose between the "fault" and "no-fault” approach. Each route has its unique criteria and implications, shaping the divorce process based on the circumstances.

Let's explore these two avenues for dissolution in detail:

1. Fault-based divorce in Texas:

A divorce on fault grounds requires proving valid reasons for the divorce.

Legal grounds for fault-based divorce in Texas include:

  • Cruelty: This is open to interpretation and depends on unique circumstances; however, the court will grant divorce on this ground if one “spouse is guilty of cruel treatment toward the complaining spouse of a nature that renders further living together insupportable.”

  • Adultery: If one spouse has committed adultery, the court can grant a divorce.

  • Conviction of a felon: If one spouse has been convicted of a felon and has spent at least one year in prison, your divorce can be granted.

  • Abandonment: If your spouse has left voluntarily with no intention to return and you have lived apart for one year, the court can grant you a divorce.

2. No-fault divorce in Texas

A no-fault divorce in Texas can be based on three different grounds:

  • Insupportability: Commonly referred to as irreconcilable differences in other states, this is one of the most common grounds for divorce in Texas.

  • Living apart: If the two spouses have lived apart for three or more years, a court can grant you a divorce on this ground.

  • Confinement to a mental hospital: If one spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for three or more years and is unlikely to improve, a court can grant a divorce.

No-fault divorce is increasingly favored due to its speed, cost-effectiveness, and simplicity when compared to fault-based divorce. It empowers couples to determine asset distribution and child custody arrangements independently.

Couples can also choose to proceed without legal representation if disputes are absent.

What is the cost of divorce in Texas?

Divorce expenses in Texas are highly variable, depending on the situation.

According to Lawyers.com, the average cost is approximately $15,6001. A different study suggests that it falls within $11,000 to $13,0002.

Some of the main expenses involved in a divorce in Texas are:

  • Filing fees: Every divorce in Texas must pay a filing fee. This is paid to the court to file the divorce paperwork. While the cost will vary based on the county you live in, it ranges between $250 and $300.

  • Service fees: You must pay a fee to have someone serve the divorce papers on your partner. The fee can range from $50 to $100 or more, depending on the method of service and your partner's location.

  • Attorney's fees: If you hire an attorney to represent you in your divorce, you need to pay for their services. In Texas, the hourly rate for a divorce attorney ranges between $130 and $415.

  • Mediation or arbitration fees: If you and your partner choose to use mediation or arbitration to resolve your disputes, you need to pay for the services. In Texas, this can cost between $3,000 and $4,000 per person. Mediation is often the cheaper way of resolving any divorce issues.

  • Expert fees: If you and your partner have complex or contested issues regarding your finances, assets, debts, or children, you may need to hire experts to provide opinions, evaluations, or testimony. The cost of hiring experts can vary depending on their qualifications, experience, location, and hourly rate, but it can be very expensive.

How to file for divorce in Texas?

From residency requirements to court proceedings, these are the key steps to initiate your divorce:

  1. Meet residency requirements: One spouse must have lived in Texas for six months and the county for 90 days before filing.

  2. Get required forms: Obtain the necessary forms from online divorce services or local government websites like txcourts.gov.

  3. Complete forms: Fill out the case information sheet, divorce petition, and family relationship form.

  4. File forms: Submit the completed Original Petition for Divorce to the Clerk of Court's office in your county.

  5. Serve your spouse: Serve your spouse with a copy of the petition, either through a process server or a waiver of service.

  6. Await response: Your spouse has 20 days to respond to the petition.

  7. Negotiate settlement: If you agree on all matters, draft a settlement agreement and submit it to the court.

  8. Attend hearing: If you disagree, attend a hearing where a judge will resolve unresolved issues.

How do you split up assets in Texas?

Texas is a community property state, meaning that all income and property acquired by either spouse during the marriage are considered to be jointly owned by both spouses. As a result, the courts require that marital property, including any debts incurred jointly, be divided equally during a divorce.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

For example, if there is a just and right reason, the court may award an unequal division of assets. Additionally, separate property, which includes anything owned by either spouse before the marriage or inherited by one spouse during the marriage, is not subject to division.

When determining what constitutes an equal division of assets, the courts will consider various factors, such as each spouse's earning potential, who was the primary caregiver for any children, and the amount of separate property owned by each spouse.

How does alimony work in Texas?

In Texas, spousal maintenance, commonly known as alimony, aids the lower-earning spouse in establishing self-sufficiency after divorce.

It's granted under specific circumstances, determined on a case-by-case basis. The following are just some of the circumstances a spouse needs to meet to qualify for spousal support:

  1. Ten-year marriage: For marriages lasting a decade, the spouse seeking maintenance (obligee) may be awarded alimony if they can prove they lack sufficient earnings to cover reasonable needs due to disability, caretaking responsibilities for a disabled child, or limited earning capacity could be eligible.

  2. Family violence offense: If the paying spouse (obligor) has a recent family violence conviction or deferred adjudication against the other spouse or their child, alimony may be awarded.

  3. Mutual agreement: Spouses can agree on a defined period for spousal maintenance.

  4. Child custody: If the dependent spouse has custody of a child who needs substantial care and the spouse is unable to earn enough to meet minimal reasonable needs, the court may award support.

What happens to children during a divorce in Texas?

Children are often caught in the middle during a divorce. 

Here is a breakdown of how such matters are resolved during a divorce in Texas:

1. Child Custody

Child custody involves determining where the child will live and which parent will make important decisions about their upbringing.

Texas law encourages both parents to participate actively in their child's life, but the court's primary focus is on the child's best interests.

When deciding custody, the court can choose between multiple options, including:

  • Sole custody: The child primarily lives with one parent who makes all the decisions concerning upbringing.

  • Joint custody: The child primarily lives with one parent, but the other parent has visitation rights. Both parents make decisions surrounding upbringing.

  • Shared custody: Both parents have legal custody, and the child spends a minimum of 35% of their time in each home.

  • Split custody: If there is more than one child in the family, the court may decide on split custody, in which each parent gets full custody of one or more children.

The court considers various factors when determining conservatorship, including the child's wishes (if they are mature enough to express them), each parent's ability to provide for the child's physical, emotional, and psychological needs, the stability of each parent's home environment, and any history of family violence or abuse.

2. Child Support

In Texas, child support is typically calculated using state guidelines that take into account the noncustodial parent's income and the number of children needing support.

Here are some of the key things to consider when looking at child support in Texas:

  • Calculation: The noncustodial parent is usually the one responsible for paying child support to the custodial parent. The amount is calculated as a percentage of the noncustodial parent's income, ranging from 20% for one child to 40% for five or more children.

  • Additional Expenses: In addition to basic child support, parents may be required to share the costs of certain additional expenses, such as health insurance, medical expenses, and educational costs.

  • Modification: Child support orders can be modified if there's a significant change in circumstances, such as a substantial change in income or the child's needs.

  • Enforcement: If the paying parent fails to meet their child support obligations, the custodial parent can seek enforcement through legal means, such as wage garnishment, property liens, or suspension of licenses.

How to protect your finances when  going through a divorce in Texas

Navigating a divorce can be a challenging and stressful experience, particularly when it comes to financial matters.

Here are some strategies to protect your finances during this difficult time:

  1. Organize Your Finances: Before initiating divorce proceedings, gather all relevant financial documents such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and retirement account details. Create a comprehensive list of both marital and non-marital assets and liabilities. This groundwork will facilitate fair negotiations with your spouse regarding property distribution and debts.

  2. Consider Mediation: In mediation, you and your spouse collaborate with a neutral third party to address divorce-related issues, including property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Mediation is often less time-consuming, more cost-effective, and less emotionally draining than going to court.

  3. Social Security Considerations: If your marriage lasted at least 10 years, you may qualify for Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record. This can be especially valuable during retirement, particularly if your ex-spouse had a higher income.

  4. Seek Professional Guidance: Given the significant impact of divorce on your financial situation, it’s wise to consider consulting a financial advisor who specializes in divorce. They can guide you through these changes and assist in creating a solid financial plan for your future.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

Find your financial advisor with Unbiased today.

 

Writer

Charlie Barton

Charlie Barton is a writer at Unbiased. He has been writing about personal finance and investing since 2017, with extensive knowledge of platforms and products. Charlie has a first-class degree from the London School of Economics.

Need help managing your finances after divorce?

A financial advisor can guide you through your financial recovery both during and after your divorce.