How To File For Divorce
Filing for divorce is a different process for different people. While the laws that govern the process are the same across the state of Texas, no two divorces are exactly alike. Individual considerations like community property, children, and military service make it impossible to give cookie-cutter instructions about filing a divorce proceeding. For this reason, speaking with a Texas family law attorney is still the best way to learn how to file for divorce. However, there are a few legal issues and factors to consider in every divorce filing, and this blog will provide you with an overview of those issues.
Residency – Where You Live Matters
Texas has a residency requirement that you must meet before you can initiate a divorce proceeding. Before filing for divorce in Texas, you or your spouse must have officially lived in Texas for six months. Additionally, you must have resided in the county where you choose to file for divorce for ninety days prior to filing.
Filing the Petition
Once you have satisfied the residency requirements, your next step is to file a petition for divorce with the family law court that serves your county of residence. A “petition” is a legal document that expresses your desire for a divorce and your reasons for filing. There are some forms online, and some websites offer free forms for filing a divorce. However, remember “you get what you pay for.” The Petition must set forth specific information such as the identities of the parties, the grounds for divorce, any children or additional parties affected by the divorce proceeding, and must be signed by the filing party (or his/her attorney). The petition is filed with the Clerk in the county of residence.
Serving Your Spouse
After you file the petition for divorce, you must serve your spouse with notice of the filing. This is a requirement that you must satisfy so that you can prove that your spouse is aware of the filing and has been given an opportunity to respond. This can be handled formally by using a licensed process server or by having a Constable deliver the petition to your spouse. Or, if your spouse will agree, the cheaper and faster way to show service on your spouse is to have him/her sign a “Waiver of Service” form. Proof of service must also be filed with the Clerk of the Court.
Waiting Period and Final Hearing
Once you have filed your petition for divorce, judges must wait at least sixty days before issuing a final decree of divorce. During this time, disputes over issues such as property, insurance, and retirement benefits must be resolved. Finally, there will be a final hearing, during which the court will resolve all pending matters before issuing the final decree of divorce. The Texas Supreme Court has provided forms that parties can agree to use to memorialize any agreements relating to the divorce. This final agreement and decree must then be approved and signed by the Judge to be effective.
What If We Cannot Agree?
Many people try to handle their own divorces on their own to try and save money or to avoid conflict. However, most divorce proceedings result in various disagreements throughout the process. Most of those disagreements revolve around child custody, visitation schedules, child support, spousal maintenance, and separation of debts and assets. This is typically when Texas lawyers will get involved in a divorce. If disagreements arise, there are options such as family law mediation or informal settlement conference that can help resolve the disputes. If no agreement is reached, a trial will take place where the judge will attempt to resolve any remaining disputes.