Divorce in Texas: Everything You Need to Know

1 min readLast updated October 3, 2023by Charlie Barton

Explore how to divorce in Texas comprehensively. From filing and records to online service, costs, and more, this guide will take you through divorce in Texas and help you make informed decisions

What are the grounds for divorce in Texas?

Divorce in Texas presents two distinct approaches: "fault" and "no-fault." 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 necessitates proving valid reasons for the divorce. Legal grounds for fault-based divorce in Texas include adultery, abandonment, insupportability, living apart, felony convictions, mental incapacitation, and cruel treatment—either physical or mental. This path implies showing misconduct that justifies the divorce, often without mutual blame.

2. No-Fault Divorce in Texas

Alternatively, no-fault divorce in Texas is based on insupportability, separation, and confinement in a mental hospital. In this scenario, neither spouse places blame on the other, yet they are not seeking reconciliation. No-fault divorce is increasingly favored due to its speed, cost-effectiveness, and simplicity when compared to fault-based divorce. It empowers couples to independently determine asset distribution and child custody arrangements. Couples can also choose to proceed without legal representation if disputes are absent.

How to file for divorce in Texas?

Embarking on a divorce in Texas involves a structured process. From residency requirements to court proceedings, follow these key steps for a clear path through the initiation of 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.

What are the divorce records in Texas?

In Texas, divorce records are official documents produced when married individuals file original divorce papers in a Texas divorce court to legally end their marriage. These records include:

  • Divorce certificates

  • Decrees

  • Case records

To access divorce records, you can contact the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (TDHHS) or a district clerk's office. TDHHS offers divorce verification letters and indexes. You can request these records in person, through mail, or via the state's online portal for public records access. If you choose in-person or mail requests, knowing the location where the divorce was finalized is important.

How to divorce online in Texas?

If you're considering an online divorce in Texas, understanding the essential stages is crucial,  including:

  1. Assess your eligibility for an online divorce: While an online divorce may seem like a convenient and cost-effective option, it may not be suitable for everyone. If you and your spouse have significant assets or debts, or if you have children, an online divorce may not be the best choice for you.

  2. Choose an online service to prepare your paperwork: To file the divorce petition online, you will need to select an online service that can help you prepare your paperwork. One such service is Texas Divorce Online, which can help you obtain your divorce entirely online if you and your spouse have reached an agreement and are both willing to sign all the necessary documents. You can also find information about the Texas divorce process and laws on their website.

  3. Notify your spouse: After filing your petition, you must serve your spouse with a copy of it. This can be accomplished by hiring a process server or by having your spouse sign a waiver of service.

  4. Wait for the mandatory waiting period to elapse: Unless there is domestic violence involved, you must wait at least 60 days from the date the divorce is filed before it can be granted.

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. Another study suggests it falls within $11,000 to $13,0002. Costs can rise notably when children are part of the equation due to increased time, effort, and related expenses.

How do you split up assets in Texas?

In Texas, the process of dividing assets during a divorce can be highly contentious and emotionally charged. Texas is a community property state, meaning that all income and property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered to be jointly owned by both spouses. As a result, the courts require that marital property be divided equally during a divorce, including any debts that were incurred jointly.

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 a variety of factors such as the earning potential of each spouse, who was the primary caregiver for any children, and the amount of separate property owned by each spouse. Given the complexity of this process, it is important to have an experienced divorce attorney to help guide you through it.

How does alimony work in Texas?

In Texas, spousal maintenance, commonly known as alimony, serves to aid the lower-earning spouse in establishing self-sufficiency post-divorce. It's granted under specific circumstances, determined on a case-by-case basis.

Four Scenarios for Spousal Maintenance:

  1. 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.

  2. Ten-year marriage: For marriages lasting a decade, the spouse seeking maintenance (obligee) lacking means to cover reasonable needs due to disability, caretaking responsibilities for a disabled child, or limited earning capacity could be eligible.

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

  4. Immigrant sponsorship: If an immigrant spouse is sponsored, the court might enforce financial support per the Affidavit of Support until specific conditions are met.

Factors Considered by the Court:

  • Available financial resources post-property division

  • Education and employability of both spouses

  • Time required for education/training

  • Marriage duration, health, age

  • Interactions between spouses

Spousal maintenance decisions rest on these factors and diligent employment-seeking efforts by the requesting spouse.

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, also referred to as conservatorship in Texas, involves determining where the child will live and which parent will make important decisions about their upbringing. Texas law encourages both parents to actively participate in their child's life, but the court's primary focus is on the child's best interests.

In Texas, there are two types of conservatorship:

  • Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC): This is the default arrangement in Texas. Both parents share the rights and responsibilities for making decisions about the child's welfare. The child may live with one parent, who is usually designated as the "primary conservator," while the other parent, the "possessory conservator," typically has visitation rights.

  • Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC): In situations where it's deemed not in the child's best interest for both parents to have equal responsibilities, the court may grant one parent sole managing conservatorship. This parent would have the exclusive right to make important decisions about the child's life, such as medical care and education.

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

Child support is the financial contribution one parent makes to help cover the costs of raising the child. 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.

Key points about 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.

It's important to note that while Texas provides guidelines for child custody and child support, each divorce case is unique. The court's decisions are based on the specific circumstances and the best interests of the child. It's recommended that individuals going through a divorce consult with legal professionals to understand how the law applies to their situation.

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

Going through a divorce can be a stressful and challenging time, especially when it comes to finances. You may have many questions and concerns about how to protect your assets, manage your debts, and plan for your future.

Here are some way you can protect your money when going through a divorce:

Organize your finances: before filing for divorce, gather all relevant financial information and documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and retirement accounts. Make a list of all assets and liabilities, both marital and non-marital. This will help you and your spouse negotiate a fair distribution of property and debts.

Consider mediation: mediation is a process where you and your spouse work with a neutral third party to resolve issues related to your divorce, such as property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Mediation can be less time-consuming, less expensive, and less stressful than going to court. It can also help you maintain a cooperative relationship with your spouse after the divorce.

Think about Social Security: if you have been married for at least 10 years, you may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record. This can provide valuable income during retirement, especially if your ex-spouse earned more than you. However, certain criteria must be met to qualify for this benefit.

Seek professional help: divorce can significantly impact your financial situation. Consider consulting with a financial advisor specializing in divorce to help you navigate these changes and plan for your future. 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.

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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.