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Filing for Divorce in Texas

What Are the Requirements for Divorce in Texas?

How do you go about starting a divorce proceeding in Texas? Getting a divorce is not as simple as going to the courthouse and filling out some paperwork. First, you need to determine whether you are even eligible for a divorce under state law.

Residency Requirements

In order to get a divorce in the state, either you or your spouse must have been a resident for six months before the filing date and must have lived in the county where you are filing for at least 90 days. In addition, for a Texas family court to have jurisdiction over a person who is not a resident of Texas, the divorcing couple’s final marital residence must have been in the state, and the petition needs to have filed within two years of the last day the marital residence ended.

If one party has lived in Texas for the past six months and his or her spouse lives elsewhere, the party living outside of Texas can file for divorce in the county where the spouse living in Texas resides.

Importantly, there are special rules for military personnel who are living in Texas. Texas residents who are stationed overseas or elsewhere in the United States may be considered Texas residents. In addition, service members who are stationed in Texas for at least six months and who are stationed at a particular military installation for 90 days are considered residents of Texas and the county that their installation is located for the purposes of filing for divorce.

Grounds for Divorce

Texas law requires people seeking to end their marriage to provide grounds for divorce. Texas recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds, and most divorces proceed under the no-fault grounds of “insupportability.”

Insupportability of the marriage because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroy the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents a reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

Some of the possibilities for fault grounds in Texas include:

  • Cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Conviction of a felony
  • Living apart for three years
  • Abandonment for at least one year
  • Confinement in a mental hospital provided that adjustment is unlikely or that relapse is possible

It is critical to carefully determine what ground for divorce apply to your situation before filing, as filing under fault grounds requires you to prove certain facts. While filing for a fault divorce can have an impact on the way that property is divided and alimony, it can also force you to disclose sensitive information about your marriage in open court. As a result, you should be certain to fully consider whether you want to pursue a fault or a no-fault divorce prior to filing. By consulting with a Sugar Land divorce attorney, you can be sure that you have explored all of your options and are pursuing the correct grounds for divorce in your situation.

How to File for Divorce in Texas

In order to initiate a divorce, the party seeking a divorce must file a petition with the District Court of the country where either party lives. The party filing for divorce must five the other party legal notice of the filing – commonly referred to as “being served.” The party who files is called the “petitioner,” and the other party is called the “respondent.”

In order to avoid a default judgment, the respondent must file an answer within 21 days. If he or she does not, the case can proceed without their involvement. As a respondent, it is usually advisable to avoid a default judgment. The reason for this is that you would be giving up the chance to assert your legal rights.

These include matters such as:

For this reason, a default judgment often results in a less-than-desirable outcome for the party against whom the judgment is being asserted. As a result, if you have been served with divorce papers, you should speak to our team at The Vendt Law Firm, P.L.L.C. immediately.

The Waiting Period & Divorce Laws in Texas

Many people who have decided to get a divorce and are anxious to move forward with the process are frustrated to learn that Texas Law imposes a 60-day waiting period. This means that even if the couple agrees on everything and all that needs to happen is that a judge signs off on their separation agreement, the court may not grant a final decree of divorce for 60 days after the petition has been filed. This requirement is intended to impose a “cooling off period” so couples who have gotten into a serious conflict do not make a hasty decision to get divorced without trying to work it out.

There are some notable exceptions to this requirement, however. If the respondent has been convicted of an offense involving domestic violence against the other party or a member of his or her household, there is no waiting period. Similarly, if the person who filed for divorce has an active order of protection or against the other party, the waiting period does not apply.

Moving the Process Forward

If you are anxious to get divorced, it is important to keep in mind that the representation and assistance of a lawyer can help get your divorce filed and completed more quickly than you would be able to on your own. An experienced divorce lawyer will be familiar with the process, which makes everything more efficient. Rather than doing all your own research and determining whether you can file, where to file, and what to file, a lawyer will handle all these issues for you.

A lawyer will also be able to determine what issues will need to be resolved before your divorce can be finalized. If there are serious issues that need to be resolved, your attorney will attempt to negotiate a settlement with your spouse (or his or her attorney). In many cases, the fact that a lawyer is representing a person can make it much more likely to reach a settlement as divorcing spouses are often unable to communicate with each other is a constructive way.

Going Through Uncontested Divorce

In every divorce, there are issues that need to be worked out. In some cases, couples are able to mutually agree to the way they want to split their property, handle child custody and child support, and spousal maintenance payments. This scenario, called an “uncontested divorce,” tends to occur in situations where couples have not been married for particularly long and have not accumulated significant community property. If you find yourself in this situation, it may be tempting to not retain an attorney in order to save money. After all, if you and your spouse agree to the terms of your divorce, how can an attorney help?

There are, in fact, many ways in which a divorce lawyer can be of assistance in an uncontested divorce. Some of the most common include the following:

  • Ensuring that you address all the issues that need to be resolved
  • Informing you about any rights of which you may be unaware
  • Making sure that the paperwork you file with the court accurately reflects your agreement
  • Protecting your future legal rights should circumstances change

Divorce is a complicated matter, and it is critical to take steps to protect your rights regarding your assets, children, and income. For this reason, you should always retain an attorney, even if you and your spouse seem to agree on how to resolve issues related to your divorce.

Committed to Resolving Contested Issues

Unfortunately, most couples who decide to end their marriages do not agree on everything – if they did, it is very likely that they would not be divorcing. There can be significant and acrimonious arguments regarding the way that assets will be divided, how custody of children will be shared, and other issues. After all, matters related to your family life and financial situation can affect your life in significant and profound ways. The Vendt Law Firm, P.L.L.C. regularly represents individuals who are in disputes regarding the terms of their divorce in Sugar Land, Texas.

Child Custody Disputes

Child custody is often the most ferociously contested issue in a divorce. Both parents may have strong feelings about both their fitness as a parent and the unfitness of their child’s other parent. Courts in Texas have significant latitude when making decisions related to child custody and can consider virtually any factor they believe is relevant to the best interests of the child. For this reason, if you are involved in a child custody dispute, you should be certain to retain an attorney immediately. A lawyer will be able to present your case to the court in the best light possible, maximizing your chances of getting the custody arrangement you are seeking.

Disputes Related to the Division of Property

The way that marital assets are divided in divorce can have a significant impact on your quality of life and financial situation. In cases in which there are assets that are not easily divisible or of which the value is difficult to determine, issues related to the division of property can become extremely complicated.

Examples of these kinds of assets include real estate, family-owned businesses, retirement accounts, and investment portfolios. The way that property is divided depends on a number of factors, including marital fault, a disparity in earning capacity, the health of both parties, benefits that one spouse would have received had the marriage continued, and the relative ages of the parties, among others.

Understanding Alimony

Texas law recognizes that people who are married function as a single financial unit at times and that one spouse often sacrifices pursuing a career in order to maintain the home, raise children, or provide other support. For this reason, in many divorces, one spouse is often required to make regular payments to the other spouse in the form of spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as “alimony.”

Whether you are a spouse seeking alimony or hoping to avoid paying it, it is important to understand that courts have significant discretion in determining whether and how much alimony to award. Because spousal maintenance can have such a significant impact on your financial well-being, it is critical to retain a divorce lawyer who will protect your rights and who understands the complicated laws that govern spousal maintenance awards.

Will I Be Entitled to Spousal Maintenance in Texas?

If you are seeking spousal maintenance under Texas law, you must show that you do not have enough income and/or property to support yourself immediately following a divorce and that one of the following is also true:

  • Your spouse committed domestic violence within the two years before the divorce or during the divorce process;
  • You have a physical or mental disability that prevents you from earning enough to support yourself;
  • Your marriage lasted at least ten years and you are not able to work enough to support your basic needs; or
  • You cannot work because you have custody of a child (with your spouse) with a disability who needs special care.
  • Once it is established that you deserve spousal maintenance, the court can consider many factors to determine how much you should receive for how long.

Aggressive Advocacy for Your Rights

If you live in Sugar Land or Katy, TX and are going through a divorce or believe that one may be around the corner, you should contact a divorce attorney as soon as you can. Retaining a divorce lawyer during the divorce process can help protect your rights and make sure that issues related to your finances, children, and other matters are resolved as favorably as possible. At The Vendt Law Firm, P.L.L.C., we are committed to providing our clients with the highest quality of legal representation possible both during divorce and after the dissolution has been finalized.

To schedule a case evaluation with our Sugar Land divorce lawyer, call our office today at (832) 263-6770.

1 http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/FA/htm/FA.8.htm

2 http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/FA/htm/FA.6.htm