A divorce begins with filing a Petition for Divorce. Texas is a no-fault state, which means that you do not need a reason like cruelty or adultery to justify divorcing. You just need to not want to be married anymore. In Texas, the no-fault ground is that “the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities which destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship…” and there is no reasonable chance of reconciliation. See TFC § 6.001.
Occasionally I receive a comment on www. AVVO.com from a person who states that they cannot get divorced because their spouse will not sign the Final Decree of Divorce. Being in a “no-fault” state means that your spouse cannot prevent you from getting a divorce. You do not need their signature or agreement. Having their signature on the Final Decree of Divorce can save time and money in terms of attorney's fees, but it is unnecessary.
The general rule is that you can file in the Texas County in which either the wife or husband has lived for the last ninety (90) days, as long as they have resided in Texas for at least the last six (6) months. See TFC § 6.301.
The fastest you can get divorced is 61 days after the Divorce Petition has been filed. There are some exceptions if there is a conviction for family violence or there is an active protective order. See TFC § 6.702. The average contested divorce takes at least six months to a year or longer to be completed.
In a divorce, the Court divides the parties’ Community Property and confirms (meaning recognizes and reaffirms) the parties’ Separate Property. What do those terms mean?
Separate Property is property owned by a spouse before the marriage, and includes gifts, inheritance, or personal injury recovery for pain and suffering or disability. See TFC § 3.001.
Community Property is everything else. The Court presumes that property in possession of either party during the divorce is Community Property. A party must prove by clear and convincing evidence that property is Separate Property. See TFC § 3.003.
Whether the property is Community Property or Separate Property is based upon the inception of the title rule. The inception of the title is the date when an ownership interest in that property first arose. A spouse may have a claim for reimbursement against the other spouse’s Separate property under certain circumstances. See TFC § 3.402.
The Family Code requires the Decree of Divorce to divide the parties’ property and debts in a just and right manner. TFC § 7.001. Parties often bristle at this requirement because they:
- Confuse physical division of property with the legal division of the property;
- Think that they do not have to award the property to themselves that is already in their name;
- Fear that listing the property means they have to give it to the other side;
- Think it is a waste of time;
- Consider it an excuse to increase attorney’s fees.
However, if the property is not awarded to one or the other party in the Final Decree of Divorce, it is subject to future division by the Court. See TFC § 9.201. Your best protection for property that is important to you, is to have it awarded to you in the Decree.
The Final Decree of Divorce has many functions. It will:
- Dissolve the marriage
- Divide the community property and debts
- Confirm the parties' separate property and debts, if any
- Change the wife's name to her maiden name if she requests it. See TFC § 6.706, 45.105.
If there are children, the Final Decree of Divorce will make some or all of the following orders establishing:
- Paternity if necessary
- Conservatorship (“custody”)
- A geographic or domicile restriction for the children
- The rights and duties of the conservators
- A Visitation / possession schedule
- Child support
- Health insurance for the children
- Management of the children’s property
- Passport provisions
- Provisions for telephone/electronic access between parents and child
- Orders to use a parenting app such as AppClose or OurFamilyWizard.com
- Permanent injunctions, especially against disparagement of the other parent in front of the child.
Other Divorce Decree content could include:
- An indemnification clause
- A clause requiring the mediation of future disputes
- An award of attorney’s fees. See TFC § 6.708.
- An order discharging obligations under the temporary orders
- An order discharging attorneys’ responsibility to keep the discovery
- Establishment of equitable liens. See TFC § 3.406.
Other documents which may be generated as part of your divorce may include:
- Wage withholding order a.k.a. employer's order (or writ) to withhold earnings for child support or spousal support
- A special warranty deed
- A deed of trust to secure assumption
- Power of attorney to transfer motor vehicle
- Qualified domestic relations order (“QDRO”). See TFC § 7.003.
You cannot get remarried before the 31st day after the divorce is decreed, unless the Judge makes an exception. See TFC § 6.801.
If you would like Hopkins-Laster Law Office to represent you in your divorce, please contact us today.
To prepare your Divorce Petition, your Attorney will need the following basic information:
- Your name, the last three digits of your ssn, and the last three digits of your driver’s license
- Your spouse’s name and address for service
- The children’s names, dates of birth, and genders.
Your answers to the following questions will help the Attorney know what relief to ask the Court to grant to you:
- Who should be the primary conservator of the children?
- What visitation should be ordered in the children’s best interests?
- Who should be ordered to stay in the house, have exclusive possession of the vehicle(s), and/or have control over other property while the divorce is pending?
- Who should be ordered to pay certain bills while the divorce is pending?
- Whether you need temporary spousal support to meet your minimum reasonable needs?
- Should a custody evaluation (social study), counseling, drug or alcohol treatment, and testing be ordered?
- Has there been family violence that makes the award of a protective order or temporary restraining order with extraordinary relief appropriate?
- Did you have separate property, which you owned before the marriage, obtained by gift, inheritance, or personal injury settlement, which you should ask the court to confirm as your separate property?
- Do you have a reimbursement claim against your spouse’s separate property or the community estate?
Gathering the following documents for your Attorney will help your Attorney get a jump on the facts
- Recent tax returns
- Both spouses' most recent pay stubs
- Copies of your monthly bills, which reflect the expense to maintain the household, and vehicles, from which a budget could be prepared
- Recent bank, 401k, or retirement statements that show there is money to pay for spousal support or attorney’s fees
- Police reports
- CPS documents
- Calendars or journals
- Children’s grade reports
- Audio or other recordings, emails, texts, or documents which would help the judge understand your claims
- The name, address, and telephone number of each person who has first hand knowledge of facts about your situation and a short sentence or two about their connection to the case. The attorney will rely on this list for many things throughout your case, including picking witnesses, subpoenaing documents, answering discovery, scheduling depositions (if required), and preparing for trial.