To file for a divorce in Texas, one of the spouses has to have been a resident of the state for a continuous six-month period. In addition, one of the spouses must have been a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days.
A typical Texas divorce requires the following steps:
- One spouse (the Petitioner), files an Original Petition for Divorce with the court, and has the papers personally served on (delivered to) the other spouse (the Respondent). If the spouses are working together, the Respondent can sign a waiver, giving up the right to be personally served with the papers.
- At the time of filing, the Petitioner can request that the court issue a standard Temporary Restraining Order that: (a) requires that no assets disappear before they can be divided by the court, and (b) requires that the spouses act civilly toward each other and not threaten or harass each. If a Temporary Restraining Order was issued, the court must schedule a hearing within 14 days of issuance. At that time, the court may make the Temporary Restraining Order into a temporary injunction against both parties.
- If no Temporary Restraining Order is issued, the Respondent has 20 days plus the next following Monday to file a document called an Answer. Commonly, the court will also consider temporary orders, which will be in effect while the divorce is pending. Temporary orders usually involve temporary custody, visitation, and support of the children, and temporary use of property and servicing of debt. It can include temporary spousal support and the payment of interim attorney’s fees as well.
- If the spouses think they haven’t gotten all the information they need from each other, they then engage in discovery, which is the process by which they exchange information and documents.
- The spouses discuss settlement of the case, either directly or with the help of attorneys or mediators. If they can work out an agreement on everything, one of the spouses or attorneys will prepare an Agreed Decree of Divorce, which will contain all of the terms of the agreement. The spouses and their attorneys sign it, and eventually the judge does as well.
- If the spouses are not able to agree on all of the issues in the case, a trial date will likely be set.
- Before trial, spouses are required to attempt mediation. Mediation is an informal process allowing the divorcing couple to work with a neutral third party (the mediator) to negotiate and settle all terms of their conflict.
- If mediation fails, the case goes to trial. At the conclusion of the trial, one of the attorneys will prepare a Final Decree of Divorce to present to the judge for signature. This will contain all of the court’s rulings and will resolve all issues pertaining to the divorce, and is binding on the parties going forward.