Depending on your particular circumstances, a divorce in Texas can be relatively simple. In fact, a simple Internet search reveals a number of services that provide you with the relevant forms to fill out and file with the court to initiate a divorce proceeding. While these services are uniquely tailored to a specific set of circumstances, we strongly encourage you to seek legal advice before filing for divorce or responding to a divorce petition that has been filed against you. This post is intended to discuss the process related to an uncontested divorce, where the husband and wife have no minor children (children 18 years old or younger).
First, what does it mean for the divorce to be uncontested? A divorce is uncontested if both spouses agree to the essential terms of the divorce. That is an agreement regarding the division of property that is contained in the divorce decree, when there are no minor children born to the marriage. This initial agreement allows for a straightforward divorce process. Of course, not every couple is in a position to amicably agree about the essential terms of the divorce. In that case, the divorce is contested and the court will have to get involved (usually) to resolve the issue. Settling these matters prior to filing the divorce petition is something we can help you with to allow for an easier divorce proceeding.
What follows is information about the procedure for filing for divorce in Texas, if the divorce is uncontested and the parties do not have marital children (for this purpose, children of a previous relationship are not considered). First, all couples seeking a divorce in Texas must meet the residency requirement. This means that either you or your spouse has continuously resided in Texas for the six months immediately prior to filing for divorce. If you meet the residency requirement, you are entitled to file a petition with the county clerk in the Texas county district court where you reside. This petition, which can be drafted by your attorney, will contain relevant information, such as contact information for you and your spouse, information about your finances (including income and debts), a proposed settlement, and the reason for requesting divorce.
Once this information is properly received by the clerk’s office, your spouse will receive notice of the pending divorce. This can be done either by the county sheriff’s office or by a private server. Because the divorce is uncontested, however, it is likely that you will be able to work out a waiver of citation with your current spouse. In that event, your spouse will receive a form indicating that they wish to not receive the previously mentioned notice. Included with the form is the petition; your spouse is required to sign the form, otherwise their waiver is not effective. After the court receives confirmation that your spouse has received notification of the divorce (either by the signed waiver or proof that they were formally served), the court will set a date for a hearing. The hearing will be at least 60 days after the court receives the confirmation. This is because of the 60-day “cooling off” period.
Before the hearing, you and your attorney can work toward compiling a finalized settlement agreement. These terms are memorialized in the divorce decree, which your attorney can draft to present to the court during the initial hearing. You and your spouse will then attend the scheduled hearing. At the hearing, the judge might ask you or your counsel some questions to determine the existence of an agreement on all of the essential terms. It is likely that your attorney or your spouse’s attorney previously filed the decree with the court before attending the hearing. Therefore, once the judge is satisfied that each party agrees to the terms of the decree, the judge will sign the decree. A signed decree is filed with the clerk’s office and you are entitled to retain a copy of the decree for yourself. At this point, the divorce is finalized. You should maintain contact with your attorney, however, in the event that a term of the decree is not carried out as specified. If that happens, your attorney can assist you with enforcing the decree by engaging the court. While we hope this does not happen to you, we are able to facilitate the necessary procedure to ensure you are not taken advantage of by a former spouse who does not wish the comply with the terms of your decree.
Of course the choice to file for divorce is not always the easiest to make. If you are considering a divorce, let us do the heavy lifting for you. At the very least, if you receive notification that a divorce petition has been filed against you, and your spouse has retained an attorney, you should immediately seek legal advice from a qualified professional. We are here to help. Give us a call and let us understand how we may assist you.