Perhaps you married your high school sweetheart, and both of you were too young to understand the impact of your decision. Maybe you took a casual relationship too far on a whim. Or perhaps you and your spouse simply woke up one morning, took a long look at each other, and realized your marriage was a terrible mistake.
Ending a marriage isn’t always a fight. When partners agree that marriage was the wrong decision or that there’s no way it can work in the future, it’s possible to dissolve the marriage without a prolonged court battle. Learn how to get an uncontested divorce in Texas.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
Texas courts will grant an uncontested divorce if the person filing for divorce (the petitioner) meets all the residency requirements. If the other partner (the respondent) doesn’t live in Texas, they must be properly served with the divorce petition according to established procedures or waive service. The couple must agree on all the terms of the divorce, from property division to child custody to child and spousal support.
Texas won’t grant an uncontested divorce if either party is involved in a bankruptcy case at the time the divorce petition is filed.
What Happens If You Have Minor Children?
First, it’s important to understand that Texas won’t grant an uncontested divorce if you have children under the age of 18. Instead, you may be able to file for an agreed divorce. You and your partner must agree on all the terms that will apply to the end of your marriage. This includes the division of property, child custody, and visitation rights. You’ll be required to outline an agreement about how you’ll raise your children in a detailed parenting plan you both accept.
You won’t get an agreed divorce in Texas if either you or your spouse are already subject to a court order for custody or child support.
It Doesn’t Matter Who Screwed Up
Texas allows no-fault divorce, meaning you don’t have to find a reason to blame your spouse for the divorce. An uncontested divorce can be based on irreconcilable differences, which is called insupportability in Texas. This simply means you agree that you just can’t live together and can’t support a marital relationship.
You can also get an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse have already lived apart for three years or if your spouse has been committed to a psychiatric facility.
If your spouse is in jail, you still must serve them with divorce papers and give them the opportunity to respond. If they don’t, you may be awarded a divorce by default. An incarcerated spouse may also agree to an uncontested divorce by signing the required forms.
You must have been a resident of the state of Texas for six months and a resident of the county where you’ll file your petition for 90 days before you file for divorce.
Your children must also call Texas home. If they’re out of state, they must have been gone less than six months at the time the petitioner files for divorce. Kids who have lived here since birth or for six months prior to filing for divorce are considered Texas residents for the purpose of an uncontested divorce.
Cases With Military Spouses
If one spouse is on active military duty, the residency and service requirements are different. A member of the armed forces who has been stationed in Texas for six months and has resided in the county where the divorce petition was filed for 90 days is considered a resident even if their permanent residence is in another state.
It can be difficult to serve papers to a deployed member of the armed forces, but if that person waives service and agrees to an uncontested divorce, the case can move forward. However, Texas protects service members from default in a divorce case. This means a member of the armed services who is deployed can’t be blamed for being unable to respond to a petition for divorce. The court can require the petitioner to wait until their military spouse is able to respond.
Trust Is Prerequisite
Before you take steps toward filing for an uncontested divorce, think about whether you truly trust your spouse. If there is any chance your partner may be hiding assets, or if you don’t believe they’re being truthful when they say they’ll agree to the divorce, you may need to rethink filing for an uncontested divorce on your own.
Steps in an Uncontested Divorce
Uncontested doesn’t mean immediate. There are several hoops to jump through before a court will grant an uncontested divorce. These include:
- Meeting the residency requirements.
- Filing the correct paperwork and paying filing fees. You may be able to download the required forms from your county’s website. If you have kids, you’ll need to prepare a parenting plan with your spouse to present to the court before the divorce can be finalized.
- Serving your spouse with a stamped, official copy of your divorce petition or getting your spouse to file a waiver of service with the court.
- Waiting 60 days. Texas requires a 60-day cooling off period before a divorce can be granted.
- Attending a final hearing. As the petitioner, you are usually required to appear before the court and answer questions to prove up your divorce petition. Your spouse may or may not attend.
- Receiving the final divorce decree.
At a final divorce hearing, the court will typically require you to state your name and your spouse’s name, affirm that you meet the residency requirements, explain when you stopped living together as a couple, and discuss why your marriage has become insupportable.
The court will ask questions about your agreement to divide property and will review your parenting plan. You’ll need to say whether you want to legally change your name following the divorce. The purpose of the hearing is to satisfy the judge that both parties truly agree on all terms and that the marriage is unsalvageable.
When To Hire a Lawyer
While it’s possible to file for and receive an uncontested divorce in Texas without hiring a lawyer, it’s still advisable to do so in certain scenarios. These circumstances include:
- When your spouse has hired a lawyer
- When you own real estate or a business together
- When you’re afraid of your spouse or worried about your children’s safety
- When you’ll need spousal or child support
- When you have complex investments or retirement accounts
- When you need help establishing custody or visitation rights
- When you don’t trust your spouse to be honest about their assets
- When you aren’t sure you can complete the forms correctly or don’t know which forms are required
Northern Law Firm can represent you as you navigate an uncontested divorce in Amarillo, TX. If you need help figuring out how to get an uncontested divorce in Texas, call us today.