Texas Divorce How-to Guide (2023)

  • Although Texas is a no-fault divorce state, misdeeds by one spouse may factor into property division. So, it may be prudent to include issues like adultery, abandonment or cruelty in the initial petition for divorce.

  • Under Texas law, at least one spouse must have resided in the state for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.

  • One of the spouses must have resided in the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days prior to the filing.

  • If you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce, you may produce an Agreed Decree of divorce to expedite the process.

Grounds for Divorce in Texas

  • Like most states, Texas allows you to divorce your spouse purely on the grounds of insupportability. In other words, you and your spouse’s inability to resolve conflicts is a sufficient cause to grant a divorce.

  • Although fault is not a consideration in granting a divorce, it may still play a role in the division of property.

A divorce proceeding in Texas begins with the filing of a completed Original Petition for Divorce with the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where you reside. You can receive these forms by using anonline divorce serviceor search for the necessary filing paperwork needed on local Government sites liketxcourts.gov.

When you file the petition, you may also ask for a Temporary Restraining Order that freezes marital assets and requires spouses to act civilly toward one another. If a tro is issued, a hearing within 14 days will be scheduled. If you and your spouse are on the same page regarding the divorce, there typically is no reason to file a TR.

Make at least two copies of all submitted documents. You must file the Petition and supporting documents with the Clerk’s Office of the county court in the county of residence. You must also pay the appropriate fees at the time of filing.

Step 2: Notifying your spouse

Under Texas law, you must provide copies of all documents related to the divorce to your spouse. You should obtain a Service of Process form from a district clerk prior to using one of the following methods to serve your spouse with the Original Petition for Divorce and the Citation:

  • In person—You must use the process service offered by your county sheriff to serve your divorce papers on your spouse. You cannot serve your spouse yourself. You must pay a fee for the process service. Upon completion of service, you will receive a notice from the process server which you must file with the court.

    (Video) How to start a Texas divorce

  • By mail—you may use certified or registered mail to serve your spouse if you cannot serve your spouse through your local sheriff’s office. You may need to get approval from the court first to use service by mail.

  • If you are unable to reach your spouse, you may still be able to provide Service by Publication. You should only use this method if you do not know the location of your spouse and cannot find it. You must obtain approval from the court first and, upon approval, publish a notice in a local newspaper.

Once your spouse has been served, they must respond to the Petition within 20 days. These responses are classified as


If your spouse does not provide any response to the divorce petition, then the judge will assume that the Respondent has abdicated any right to participate in the case. The judge will probably grant many or all of the requests by the petitioner regarding child custody, spousal support and property distribution in the Original Petition for Divorce.


If your spouse files an Answer with the court but agrees with all of the details in the Complaint, this is considered an uncontested dissolution of marriage. You and your spouse must formulate and sign a settlement agreement which must be filed within 60 days of serving notice.


If your spouse files an Answer that disputes aspects of equitable distribution, custody, or alimony found in the Original Petition for Divorce, then the court will likely have to step in and make decisions regarding contested issues. The court will issue summons to both parties to attend a hearing, which will identify disputed issues, and if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, you will proceed to a trial.

Contested Divorce (High Cost $8k+)

If you and your spouse cannot agree on the major issues in how your marriage should be dissolved, you will probably need to hire an attorney to represent you in this complex divorce proceeding.

  • In contested divorce cases, you must attend a hearing where the judge will determine the format of the trial, including major issues litigated and what evidence is admissible.

  • Contested divorces usually involve attorneys for both parties.

  • Most divorce attorneys will charge substantial legal fees in a contested divorce procedure due to the length of time and effort of participating in a trial. In a protracted legal case, many lawyers will charge you by the hour.

  • Attorneys are likely to engage in discovery where they will investigate you and your spouse’s claims. This long and costly process may include document requests, subpoenas and witness interviews.

  • Contested divorces may cost several thousands of dollars or more in court and attorney fees, depending on the number and complexity of disputes.

Uncontested Divorce (Low Cost $500+)

When filing a divorce in Texas, there are low-cost alternatives to a contested divorce.

  • If you and your spouse can amicably settle your marital issues, you may submit to the court the Settlement Agreement attesting to your final resolution.

  • After the papers are filed, the judge will schedule a final hearing, which you and your spouse must attend. You or your spouse may be asked to confirm details of the Settlement Agreement at this hearing.

  • The judge will schedule a hearing to finalize the divorce at least 60 days following the initial filing.

    (Video) 11 Things You Should Know Before filing for Divorce

  • In many cases, an uncontested divorce is considerably more inexpensive because there is no need to hire an attorney or complete a trial. Many people are capable of filling out the paperwork for an uncontested divorce without legal assistance.

Step 4: DIY or attorney assisted divorce?

Self-Representation (Lowest Cost)

If you and your spouse can agree to a settlement prior to going to trial, it will dramatically reduce the cost related to the divorce and minimize stress to you and your family. That is why you should do everything you can to resolve any major conflicts with your spouse prior to beginning the divorce process. Using a service like3StepDivorce is typically the best route to go because they make the paperwork part a lot easier with minimal cost and effort (Read our review here).

Also, using online divorce paper service to help file your divorce in Texas will reduce your time and you will have someone to review your paperwork to make sure everything was filled out correctly.

Mediation (Medium Cost)

The state of Texas encourages couples who are considering a divorce to use mediation services, and, in many cases, may require couples to meet with a mediator prior to completing a divorce. Mediators are independent, conflict resolution professionals with expertise in resolving personal issues. Although they may not have the legal authority to force a couple to remain married, mediators often produce compromises that minimize animosity and expedite the divorce process (Top reason to use a mediator).

Divorce Trial (Highest Cost)

In cases where you and your spouse cannot agree on major issues, the judge will schedule a trial that could go on for several days.

  • Hiring an experienced divorce attorney to defend you is usually in your interest, as your spouse will probably do likewise.

  • In the discovery phase, both legal teams will investigate the allegations made by each party. This may take weeks or even months to complete.

  • At the trial, both sides will argue using evidence and testimony. It is highly risky to proceed to trial without an attorney.

  • Even with highly experienced legal representation, there is no assurance of a successful outcome.

The major points of contention in most divorce cases involve issues of property division, child custody or spousal support. If you and your spouse fail to come to an agreement on these issues, you should know how Texas courts often rule.

Property Distribution

Texas bases its property distribution upon the principle of community property, which deems most property obtained during the marriage equally shared. Separate property is not divided and must have been obtained in the following ways:

  • Owned prior to marriage

  • Gifted to one spouse

  • Compensation for injuries to one spouse

  • Inherited by one spouse

Texas courts prefer to split community property in a way that is “just and right.” The court may consider many factors when dividing marital property (separate property is owned prior to the marriage and is usually not at dispute) including:

(Video) Divorce in Texas: What You Need to Know Before You File | Austin Divorce Attorney

  • Fault for breakup of marriage

  • Age and health of each spouse

  • Liabilities and tax consequences

  • How much either spouse contributed to its acquisition

  • Income earning potential of both spouses

  • Custody of children

  • Alimony allocation

Once the marital property and debts are identified, they are assigned a monetary value, usually by an independent appraiser; they will then be assigned to a party.

Child Custody

As in most states, Texas determines child custody or conservatorship based on the best interests of the child. The courts in Texas prefer to grant Joint Managing Conservatorship with both parents sharing responsibility for raising the child. This does not mean that parents will have equal possession or access to the child. The judge will consider many factors including:

  • Parent’s ability care for the child

  • Child’s preferences

  • Child’s safety

  • Relationship with parents

  • Child’s current living situation

  • Past instances of violence

  • Ongoing conflicts between parents

    (Video) The Divorce Rules for Men

If one parent is granted sole custody, the court will decide the other parent’s visitation privileges. The non-custodial parent is usually required to pay child support until the child reaches 18 years of age.

Spousal Support

In Texas, alimony or spousal maintenance may be ordered if the dependent spouse is incapable of providing for their basic needs and one of the following is true:

  • Spouse is convicted of domestic violence

  • Dependent spouse is physically or mentally disabled

  • Has custody of a disabled child

However, spousal support is not mandatory and a judge may award it depending upon several factors:

  • Future earning capacity of both spouses

  • Each spouse’s age and health

  • Marital misconduct

  • Ability to pay alimony

  • Length of the marriage

  • Tax and liability burdens

  • Property distribution

  • Education of each spouse

Texas does limit how long alimony must be paid; the longer the marriage, the lengthier the period of spousal support. The monthly alimony may not be more than $5,000 or 20% of the supporting spouse’s monthly income.

Step 6: Finalizing your texas divorce

If a trial is scheduled, then you and your spouse must go to trial to obtain a judgment on any unresolved issues. If there is a settlement agreement, you and your spouse must attend a final hearing. Following these courtroom proceedings, the judge will issue a judgment. If the divorce is uncontested, the court will decide to grant the divorce following a hearing. The judge will question you and your spouse to confirm the details of the divorce agreement and issue the Final Decree of Divorce.

(Video) How to File For Divorce in Texas


What is the first step to getting a divorce in Texas? ›

The first step to divorce in Texas is to file for a Petition for Divorce with the family court in the county you (or your spouse) reside and have been residing in at least 90 days prior to filing of the divorce petition. This form tells the court/judge and your spouse that you want a divorce.

How do I prepare for a divorce in Texas? ›

How to Prepare for Divorce in Texas
  1. Consider Closing Joint Accounts. ...
  2. Change Your Passwords and Mailing Addresses. ...
  3. Build Your Own Savings. ...
  4. Protect Your Credit. ...
  5. Get Organized. ...
  6. Speak to a Therapist. ...
  7. Plan Your Custody Case. ...
  8. Contact a Texas Divorce Attorney.
Apr 11, 2022

What is the wife entitled to in a divorce in Texas? ›

In Texas, the courts presume that all property and income that either spouse obtained during the course of the marriage belongs equally to both spouses. This means that the state will equally divide the couple's assets between them in the divorce process.

Does it matter who files for divorce first in Texas? ›

In Texas, it generally does not matter which party files first. However, it may still be beneficial to be the filing party. This depends on your circumstances, and every case is different. If you have any questions, you should speak with your divorce attorney about what is best for you.

How long does a divorce usually take in Texas? ›

Divorce in Texas is a Lengthy Process.

In Texas, a divorce is not final for at least 60 days after a petition is filed. It typically takes about six months to one year or longer to finalize a divorce, depending on the complexity of the issues and the degree of conflict.

How much does it cost to get a divorce if both parties agree in Texas? ›

If you and your spouse agree on most things and a mediation attorney makes sense for you, you can expect to pay about $3,500 or more in shared legal fees, along with court costs. Learn more about how much it costs to get divorced in Texas here.

Is Texas a 50 50 divorce state? ›

Texas is not a 50/50 community property state. The Texas Family Code requires a just and right division of community property. Judges may divide 55/45 or 60/40 if they see bad behavior on one side, or if there are fault grounds (adultery, cruelty, etc.), or if there is disparity in earning capabilities.

What should I do immediately after divorce? ›

  • Ask for Help. "Join a divorce support group or find a compassionate therapist, and talk about what happened in your marriage," Dr. ...
  • Wallow Constructively. ...
  • Focus on the Positive. ...
  • Forgive Yourself. ...
  • Take Care of Number One. ...
  • Build on Your Little Victories. ...
  • Don't Drag the Kids Into Drama. ...
  • Prepare for Friends to Take Sides.
Dec 5, 2022

How long do you have to be separated before you can file for divorce in Texas? ›

How long do you have to be separated before you can file for divorce in Texas? There are no requirements for marriage separation in Texas prior to filing for divorce. As long as one spouse has been a domiciliary of the state for six months and a resident of the county for 90 days, the divorce can be filed.

How much is it to start a divorce in Texas? ›

A filing fee must be paid when the spouse initiating the case submits the divorce petition with the court. In Texas, this fee is about $300, varying slightly from county to county and depending on whether the spouses have kids.

How long does it take to get a divorce in Texas right now? ›

Theoretically, the least amount of time it can take to get divorced in Texas is 61 days. However, even an uncontested divorce typically takes about three to four months to finalize due to the court's docket and the schedules of all the parties involved.

How long do you have to be separated before divorce is automatic in Texas? ›

Texas does not recognize legal separation. However, separation for a period of at least three years is one of the grounds for divorce in Texas. Living separately and apart means living in different residences.


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