Area of Law:
Filing for divorce can be a difficult and emotional decision. To begin a divorce proceeding in Texas, file the original petition for divorce with your local district court. The spouse filing the divorce petition is the petitioner, and the other spouse is the respondent. To file for a divorce in Texas, either you or your spouse must live in Texas for at least six months prior to filing the divorce petition. In addition, at least one spouse must live in the county where the divorce petition is filed for at least 3 months. However, it is not necessary for both spouses to be residents of Texas; only one spouse needs to be a resident to file for divorce in Texas. You can obtain a divorce petition from the Texas Law Help’s website http://www.texaslawhelp.org/documents/clusters/tx/433/English/index.shtml.
As of 2011, the filing fees for a divorce in Texas range from $200 to $250 depending on the complexity of the divorce. Texas is a no fault divorce state, and most Texas divorce petitions cite a conflict of personalities as the reason for the divorce. After the petitioner files the divorce petition, the petitioner must provide a copy of the filed petition to the respondent. In Texas, spouses must wait a minimum of 60 days before the divorce will become final following the filing of the divorce petition. Typically, a divorce will only take 60 days if there are no complications and the divorce is uncontested. An uncontested divorce means both spouses agree to the material terms of the divorce, including the division of marital assets and child custody.
One of the issues that may arise during the divorce is the division of marital assets. Like many western states, Texas is a community property state. Therefore, all property acquired during the marriage that is not separate property, is community property. This means the court will divide all community property equally between both spouses during a divorce. In contrast, separate property is property acquired by either spouse prior to the marriage or during the marriage by gift or bequest. Both parties are able to keep their separate property that they had before the marriage. In addition to assets acquired during the marriage, the court must also divide the spouse’s debts. The court will divide debts evenly between the two spouses, but also take into consideration the originator of the debt. All debts acquired after the separation date will be each individual spouse’s debt, and not community debt.
Like many states, Texas encourages spouses to try to reach a marital settlement agreement on their own. In addition, Texas requires spouses to attend mediation to try to resolve any disagreements about the divorce. If the spouses are unable to agree on settlement terms, it can affect how long the divorce will take to become final.
If you have additional questions regarding how to file for divorce, contact the self-help center in your local courthouse. For example, if you live in Austin, the Travis County Courthouse offers a self-help center to assist individuals that wish to file for divorce http://www.traviscountylawlibrary.org/ProSe_Clinic.html.