If a divorce is part of your plans in 2020, there are several steps to follow in order to dissolve a marriage in the Lone Star State.
If you were born and raised in Texas and have lived in the state all your life, you’re a resident. You’ll need to live in one county for three months prior to filing for divorce.
But if you’re one of the thousands who moved here from out of state, getting a divorce is going to take a little time.
To establish residency, you’ll have to live in the state of Texas for six months, and at least one party must reside in the county for three months, concurrently. That means if you move into the Fort Worth area, you’ll have to live in Tarrant County for three months prior to filing your divorce petition. If you moved into either Denton, Wise or Parker counties first, then moved into Tarrant during the six months of living in Texas, once you’ve lived in Texas for six months and Tarrant for three at the same time, you’re then eligible to file in Tarrant.
Contested Or Uncontested?
If you and your spouse are just calling it a day, not sparring over children or property and have worked everything out, an uncontested divorce is a simple and relatively speedy process. After filing the petition and serving the other party, there is a 60-day “cooling off” or waiting period (except in cases of domestic violence.) After 61 days, the petitioner can request a judgment of divorce. Once signed, the divorce is final. It doesn’t take long, doesn’t cost much, and is a relatively simple process for you, your spouse, and respective attorneys.
But if you and your spouse have children, significant assets or other issues that are difficult to resolve, your divorce is considered “contested.” You’ll need the help of an experienced Fort Worth divorce attorney in order to ensure that everything is done correctly and your rights are protected. Depending on your spouse, it will likely cost more to have a contested divorce, but it may also be money well spent in the long run.
Once these two issues are established, you can begin your divorce process.
Filing The Petition
The first step in initiating a divorce proceeding is filing a petition with the court to dissolve your marriage. The petition is filed in the county where one party has lived for 90 days as explained above. You’ll need two copies, and will pay a filing fee. The clerk will stamp both copies, and one copy will have to be served to your spouse, either with a process server, or in person and the spouse signing a notarized waiver of service.
The court will address issues listed in the petition, including:
- Property Division—One of the biggest issues in a divorce is the fate of the family home, as well as other valuable assets. Texas is a community property state, which means if the parties can’t agree on their own about how to fairly divide the property, the court takes over and divides it for them. These are not always fair divisions, so it makes sense for couples to work through the property division for themselves.
- Conservatorship (Child Custody Arrangements)—again, this is an issue that is best decided by the couple themselves rather than the court, which takes the view of “in the best interests of the child.” If the parents have conflicts that are not worked out by mediation, the court will award a standard possession order and the parents must abide by it. If the possession order handed down by the court is not viable, you or the other parent will have to go back to court to request a modification of the order.
- Spousal Support (Alimony)—although some spouses do get support, it’s not guaranteed. Some spouses may receive support for a limited time if their earning capacity is diminished after the divorce. This support The exceptions are mental and/or physical disability, caring for a child from the marriage, and a spouse’s earnings that can provide for “minimum reasonable needs.”
Your Court Date
You’ll be notified when you and your attorney will be appearing in court.
If you and your spouse have come to an agreement on the terms of your divorce, the judge will simply issue a decree and your divorce will be final.
Should you and your spouse not come to an agreement on the terms, you may choose or be required to go through mediation. If mediation hasn’t worked to settle these disagreements, the judge will make the decisions for any conflicted issues and include them in the final decree.
Facing Divorce? Let Wendy L. Hart Guide You
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County with divorce, property and child custody issues. We represent both men and women for family law matters. Visit our Mansfield office at 2363 HWY 287 N, Suite 108, use our online contact form, or call us at (817) 842-2336 for an appointment