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What You Need to Know about Filing for Divorce in Texas

For most people, filing for divorce is an emotional and stressful time.  Understanding the legal process of filing for divorce in Texas can help to ease some of the anxiety involved.  With the assistance of a seasoned Houston divorce attorney, you can learn more about the basics of filing a divorce in Texas.

Filing for Legal Separation in Texas

Divorce is the dissolution of a marriage.  In Texas, a divorce petition determines issues related to child custody, property and debts.  Once a divorce petition has been granted, either spouse is free to marry another person.

Texas Does Not Recognize Legal Separation

In many states, legal separation allows spouses to take a step towards divorce without being officially divorced.  Filing for legal separation in Texas is not an option. Texas does not recognize legal separation; under Texas law, once they have married, couples are either married are divorced.

What Are the Grounds for Filing for Divorce in Texas?

Marriages break up for a variety of reasons, from one spouse doing something wrong to a couple simply growing apart.  Texas law recognizes this reality, and offers two basic options for divorce petitions: no-fault and fault.

Texas Allows for Both No-Fault and Fault Divorces

In a no-fault divorce, the grounds for divorce is that the marriage has become unsupportable.  The divorce will be granted without either spouse alleging that the other was at fault in any way.  Instead, one spouse must state under oath that “the marriage has become insupportable because of a discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship” with “no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.”  This type of divorce can be granted over the other spouse’s objection.

filing for divorce in Texas

Texas also permits a spouse to file for divorce on fault grounds. This can include a number of issues, such as cruelty, adultery, living apart, confinement in a mental hospital, abandonment and conviction of a felony.  If our divorce attorney can demonstrate that one spouse was at fault, a court may give the “innocent” spouse more of the community property.

Who Is Eligible to File for Divorce in Texas?

Under Texas law, only residents may file for divorce.  To achieve residency in order to file for divorce, either you or your spouse must have lived in Texas continuously for at least six months prior to filing the divorce petition.  In addition, you must have lived in the county where the petition was filed (such as Harris County) for at least 90 days beforehand.  If you are concerned about meeting the residency requirement, consult with a Houston divorce attorney to determine if you have lived in Texas a sufficient amount of time to file for divorce.

Is It Better to File for Divorce First?

In any divorce, there are strategic decisions that must be made, ideally with the assistance of an experienced Houston divorce attorney. In many divorce cases, the question of who files first is not important to the ultimate resolution.  However, if there is any concern that a spouse may be engaged in any sort of misconduct regarding marital assets, then filing for divorce as soon as possible will likely be in your best interests.  For example, if you believe that your spouse may be hiding assets, spending money frivolously, or selling off property to reduce the marital estate, then your Houston divorce attorney may recommend filing for divorce quickly.  In many Texas counties, once a divorce petition has been filed, both parties are subject to an order regarding children and property.  The order will prohibit both parties from removing children from the state, selling or transferring assets, canceling credit cards, or communicating with each other in a threatening way.  If you have any concern that your spouse may waste assets or attempt to interfere with your custodial rights, then filing for divorce first might be a smart decision.

How Quickly Can a Texas Divorce Be Finalized?

In Texas, a divorce petition can be granted 60 days after it is filed.  This generally only occurs when the divorce is uncontested, which means that the parties agree to all issues from the beginning of the case, and all that the court has to do is sign off on the agreement and divorce decree.  If there are disputed issues, such as property or child custody, a divorce case can take substantially longer.  Typically, a disputed divorce can take from six months to a year, although it may stretch beyond a year in a highly contentious divorce.  Working with a skilled divorce attorney can help you move your divorce case towards resolution in a more efficient manner.

Can One Spouse Be Required to Pay Attorneys’ Fees for Both Lawyers?

Divorces are civil cases, which means that neither party is entitled to an attorney.  However, it is generally a smart idea to hire a lawyer, particularly if your spouse has one to represent him or her.  But for many married couples, one spouse controls the assets, making it difficult for the other spouse to pay for a lawyer in the event of a divorce.  In those situations, the spouse without access to funds can petition the court for the other spouse to pay for his or her attorney’s fees.  He or she must show the need for the funds and that the other spouse has the ability to pay the fees in order for this petition to be granted.  If granted, then the spouse with access to funds will be required to pay attorney’s fees during the divorce.

If you are considering divorce in Houston or the surrounding areas, you will need an experienced Houston divorce attorney to guide you through the process.  Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation.