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Fort Worth Divorce Lawyer

Last Updated on September 23, 2021 by Benson Varghese

We know if you are contemplating a divorce, you are on the verge of a massive change to your life. You will be facing a number of emotionally charged decisions. You may find yourself feeling drained and anxious.

You should not face these problems alone.

Advice from a Fort Worth Divorce Lawyer

It’s almost impossible to fully prepare for the emotional, financial, and physical toll a divorce can take on you and your family. Whether you’ve been contemplating your options for months or are just recently exploring the legal avenues available to you, understanding the basics of a divorce in Texas is the first step in finding the path that is best for you.

Our family lawyers know the challenges you are facing and the struggles you are going through. Our top priority is to get the best results for you through agreement or through the court system.

We are experienced trial attorneys and hiring us sends a message to the other side: we are relentless in seeking the best outcomes for our clients. We are proud of our track record and reputation for treating our clients with compassion, handling ourselves with integrity, and being tenacious until we prevail. We’ve put this page together to share information that our Fort Worth Divorce Lawyers believe is important for you to know as you go through the divorce process in Texas.

What is a Divorce in Texas?

Let’s start with the basics. Divorce is the dissolution of a marriage, meaning a valid marriage is ended through a legal process. In Texas, a marriage is presumed valid so long as there is no fraud, mistake, or illegality. There are also rules prohibiting minors from getting married and some offenses in the Penal Code that would prevent the formation of a valid marriage. A marriage is even considered valid if the officiant did not have the authority to perform the marriage ceremony but there was a reasonable belief that the officiant was authorized and at least one party thought the marriage was valid.

Termination of Marriage in Texas

If you have a valid marriage, there are two ways the marriage can be ended: death or divorce. While Texas does recognize annulments as a method of terminating a marriage, an annulment is granted when the marriage should not have occurred in the first place, such as when the marriage was not legal (i.e. in cases of bigamy) or some legal impediment to marriage that may have been concealed initially is revealed (i.e. one spouse concealed their previous divorce which occurred within the month prior to the new marriage). Texas divorce can get really complicated and the grounds, process, and cost are entirely dependent on your specific situation.

  • Update your bills, utilities, and change the title to your cars.
  • Revise your estate planning documents (like a will) and any pay-on-death accounts.
  • Change beneficiaries from your spouse to the individual(s) you want as beneficiaries.
  • Revise life insurance and retirement plans as needed.

How to Get a Divorce in Texas

If you are getting divorced in Texas or thinking about getting divorced, there is a lot you should know about the process. A divorce fully dissolves a marriage. To understand Texas divorces, you must keep in mind whether the courts have jurisdiction over you, the grounds for divorce, issues related to property and children, and what is needed to draft legal documents. If you want to familiarize yourself with the basics and start making a plan that is right for you, check out this article.

Table of Contents

divorce residency texas

Texas generally has two main requirements for a court to have jurisdiction over your divorce:

  1. You or your spouse must have resided in Texas for at least 6 months prior to the filing date, and
  2. You must reside in the county you are filing for divorce for 90 days prior to filing.

If neither spouse meets residency, you must either wait until you meet residency requirements or get divorced in a county/state where you do meet the requirements.

is your divorce at fault or no fault

No-Fault Divorces in Texas

Texas allows for no-fault divorces that have become insupportable. Either spouse can petition for divorce citing insupportability. Alleging this ground means the marriage has become incompatible due to conflict or other discord to such a degree than the relationship is beyond a reasonable expectation of reconciliation. Some other states call insupportability, “irreconcilable differences” or “incompatibility.” Any time you see a celebrity divorce, more than likely, the grounds alleged are irreconcilable differences.

At-Fault Divorces in Texas

There are six at-fault grounds to get a divorce in Texas:

  1. Cruelty: If one spouse treats the other in a manner that makes living together insufferable or untenable, the court can grant a divorce in favor of the complaining spouse.
  2. Adultery: If one spouse commits adultery, the court can grant a divorce in favor of the complaining spouse.
  3. Felony conviction: The court can grant a divorce to the petitioning spouse if the other spouse has been convicted of a felony, imprisoned for at least a year in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a federal prison, or prison of another state, and has not been pardoned. However, if the conviction resulted because of the testimony of the other spouse, a divorce cannot be granted on this ground.
  4. Abandonment: A court can grant a divorce in favor of one spouse if the other spouse has left for at least one year with no intention of return.
  5. Living apart: If the spouses have not cohabitated for at least three years, a court can grant a divorce in either spouse’s favor.
  6. Confinement in a mental hospital: The court can grant a divorce in favor of one spouse if when the petition is filed, the other spouse has been in a state or private mental hospital for at least three years and the mental disorder for which the spouse has been confined is so severe that adjustment is unlikely, or a relapse will occur.

plan for your divorce

Once you have given some thought to the grounds for your divorce, think about what you will need to prove if you are contemplating an at-fault divorce.

Gather Materials

  • A common basis for an at-fault divorce is adultery. Is there evidence you already have such as text messages, videos, emails that will help your case? Do you need your attorney to put an investigator on your spouse? Are there witnesses to the cruelty your spouse has exhibited? Do you have their names and numbers handy?
  • Gather information that your attorney will need to know about includes the various accounts your spouse has. While the discovery process will give you and your attorney ample opportunity to gather evidence, the more information you have to start, the easier things will be down the road.

Property Distribution Planning

  • You are not guaranteed 50-50 property split. Judges are not required to split property right down the middle. In Texas, judges use a “just and right” property split. What seems the fairest to you may not be what the judge considers a fair or equal split. There are cases where one spouse gets an inequitable portion of the property.
  • Keep clear and detailed financial records of your assets and property. Do not rely on electronic access and get printed records of everything of value to you when possible. You do not want to be stuck in the situation where your passwords get changed or you get locked out of an account (whether it is by your spouse or a third party) and are unable to show what your personal/separate assets actually are.

Understand there is a Community Presumption

  • Texas has what is called a presumption of community property when it comes to marriage relationships. A presumption is a legal term that simply means that something is taken as true, unless there is evidence contradicting it. In reference to marriage, Texas presumes that any property you acquire while you are married is community property, meaning you and your spouse have an equal right to it.
  • Alternatively, property can be separate property—all this means is that the property is acquired before marriage or by gift, devise (through a will), or descent (through inheritance). You can prove something is separate property, often called overcoming the presumption of community property by attorneys, by clear and convincing evidence.

Child Custody Planning (Conservatorship)

  • In Texas, custody is often called conservatorship. Custody or conservatorship is the legal ability to make decisions regarding the life of the child. There’s a wide range of decision-making ability that comes with custody, including where the child lives and even where the child goes to school. Courts use the “best interest” of the child to decide what living situation would work best for the child. There are a number of factors courts look at to determine best interests of the child, including the child’s emotional and physical needs, present and future dangers to the child, child abuse issues, stability at home, etc.
  • As examples, courts will look at who provided care and food for the child, who helped with schoolwork, who provided medical care, who took the child to doctor’s appointments, and many other issues to figure out which environment is the child’s best interest.

Child Support Planning

  • Child support is money that a parent has to pay, frequently because of a court order, until a child turns 18 or graduates from high school (whichever is later). In some cases, child support may be ended early, such as if the child is emancipated, the child enlists in the army, the child dies, or the parent paying support is found to not be the genetic parent.
  • To calculate child support, look at your pay after taxes. Texas has guidelines for calculating child support for each case. Typically, it depends on net pay (pay after tax deductions) and the number of children you have. For example, here is a breakdown of what can generally be expected.
    • 1 kid: 20% of net income
    • 2 kids: 25% of net income
    • 3 kids: 30% of net income
    • 4 kids: 35% of net income
    • 5+ kids: 40% of net income

Spousal Support Planning

  • Texas calls alimony or spousal support, “spousal maintenance.”
  • You are not guaranteed spousal maintenance. (Yes, you did read that statement correctly.) Whether or not you are eligible for spousal maintenance comes down to how long you have been married, your ability to support yourself, and other specific circumstances in your case. To be eligible for spousal maintenance, generally, you must be married for over ten years, have domestic violence in your relationship, or a significant wage disparity between you and your spouse. Alternatively, you can have an existing marital agreement, like a pre-nuptial agreement, that governs how much and whether you pay maintenance. If your soon-to-be former spouse is alleging you are owed nothing but you meet one or more of these descriptions, you should contact a family law attorney as soon as possible.
  • Texas has a cap on how much spousal maintenance you can receive. You can receive up to the lower of $5,000 or 20% of the paying spouse’s gross monthly income.
  • Spousal maintenance also gets limited by establishing a period of time during which it must be paid. For example, if you are married for thirty years, generally, you will get no more than ten years of spousal maintenance.

Planning for a Contest or Uncontested Divorce

  • If your divorce is uncontested, the costs of getting a divorce will be significantly lower.
  • Keep in mind that many divorces start uncontested but then become contested when issues involving property, money, or children are being decided. Hiring an attorney early can help move the divorce along and keep things more neutral because communication will be done through your attorney and not through you.

How to find the right divorce lawyer

  • First and foremost, do your research. Ask around. Read reviews. You want to know what other people think about the attorney you are considering.
  • Call for a consultation. Some attorneys charge for their consultations. Others offer free preliminary phone consultations. For complex cases, we are happy to set aside time to talk to you in person and understand the dynamics as well as your desires.
  • Go to the in-person consultation to see how you mesh with your potential attorney and ask questions.

Notice of Divorce

Your attorney will have your soon to be ex-spouse served with the divorce paperwork. Texas usually allows:

  • Private process server
  • Sheriff
  • Publication, if all else fails
  • Notice can also be waived in writing.

Your spouse can file a counter-petition or an answer. By Texas law, they have 20 days to respond after proper service.

waiting for divorce

In Texas, the law requires you to wait at least 60 days before your divorce is finalized and there is no such thing as a “quickie” divorce. The time starts running when the original petition for divorce is filed with the appropriate court. Be prepared to spend a minimum of 60 days getting your divorce finalized. Three to six months (and even a year) is not uncommon for uncontested divorces. Contested divorces can take years.

In some cases, such as if there is domestic violence present in the relationship, the divorce may be finalized more quickly. If you or spouse is pregnant, you will have to wait until the baby is born to be able to finalize the divorce. If you can reach agreements with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, it can move the process along faster. If you are worried because your spouse does not want a divorce, but you do, do not despair. Texas is a no-fault divorce state, so if one spouse wants a divorce, the divorce can be granted.

going to divorce in Tarrant County

Even before the 60 days are up, you may have interim court hearings for temporary orders. The judge will make decisions in the best interest of a child – including decisions on support and custody – while the divorce is being finalized. The judge can also sign a temporary restraining order if the judge is concerned about the well-being of the parties.

Your attorney will prepare a divorce decree. This document memorializes the terms that you and your former spouse will abide by.

Attend the required classes.

  • If there are kids involved, many courts require that parents attend a class before a final order is obtained from the court. The goal of the class is to help parents focus on the best interests of their kids, rather than having divorce-related tunnel vision. Your attorney, the court, and the district clerk can give you more information if you are curious about whether or not the judge presiding over your case requires a parenting class. Generally, you can attend the parenting class separately from your spouse. Keep in mind that there is usually a fee to go to the class.
  • In Tarrant County, some judges require parenting classes, and some do not. It truly depends on the court. Once your case is assigned to a specific court, you can find out what that judge requires.

At your final court hearing, all issues that are still disagreed upon will get presented either to a judge or a jury. The court will hear testimony of the parties and witnesses and evaluate any evidence offered.

filing for divorce in texas

Your attorney will get the decree signed by the judge and file the decree to the court clerk. Your attorney will provide you with a certified copy of your final divorce decree. A certified copy is self-proving. Third parties, such as creditors, will need certified copies to demonstrate the divorce is final.

what to do after your divorce

  • Update your bills, utilities, and change the title to your cars.
  • Revise your estate planning documents (like a will) and any pay-on-death accounts.
  • Change beneficiaries from your spouse to the individual(s) you want as beneficiaries.
  • Revise life insurance and retirement plans as needed.

Five Questions You Should Ask A Divorce Lawyer

  1. How much experience do you have? Our attorneys together have over three decades of experience helping individuals facing divorce in Texas. We know the other attorneys in town and what to expect when we go up against them. We have significant trial experience, something many of our counterparts do not. We know the judges, the bailiffs, and the court staff and we believe in treating them all with respect.
  2. How do you structure your costs? We’ve handled all kinds of divorces, ranging from simple uncontested divorces to highly contentious divorces with significant mixed property and business assets. During our consultation, we can give you a very good idea of the costs of trial – whether it is litigated or not. For some cases, we work on a flat fee through temporary orders and on other cases we quote an hourly rate that is billed against a retainer.
  3. What sets you apart? There are two things we pride ourselves on the most. First, we do not operate a volume practice. We get to know our clients, their challenges, their goals, their families, and we make ourselves available to our clients so we are there when they need us. Second, we are good stewards of our clients’ resources. It takes skill and experience to maximize the time and money invested in a case. Whether your divorce costs a couple of thousand dollars or a couple hundred thousand dollars, you don’t want to spend a dollar more than you have to – and you shouldn’t.
  4. How accessible are you? Our phones are answered 24/7. We also have a client portal where clients can keep track of their cases and send a message to their lawyers – anytime, day or night.
  5. What should you do if your spouse controls all the money? Your attorney can petition the court for temporary orders for interim attorney’s fees. Temporary orders can also help with payments for child support, spousal support, and preventing the sale of community or mixed property.

Step 5: Filing for Divorce

filing for divorce in texas

Your attorney will draft your petition for divorce. This is a detailed filing that will contain biographical information, historical information about the marriage, establish jurisdiction, the level of discovery, the ground for divorce, as well as information about the children, and property. The petition will include a plan for child custody, visitation, and child support and property division. It will often include requests for temporary restraining orders with specific facts to support the request.

To begin the legal process of dissolution, one party files a petition for divorce. This party – the “Petitioner” – must serve the petition on their spouse, who is referred to as the “Respondent.” Once served, the Respondent has 20 days to file an answer and, if they choose to do so, a counter-petition with the court. In many situations, a Respondent may be caught off-guard when served with divorce documents. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to file your answer on time. If you do not file a timely answer after being properly served, the judge could enter a default judgment against you.

Many individuals contemplating divorce feel that they will get the upper hand if they file first. In most cases, being the first to file has no overall bearing on the case. However, if you have concerns that your spouse may try and alter the marital estate, your attorney may recommend that you file first, so as to preserve the community estate at that date and time.

What goes into a divorce petition?

You must state the basis for divorce in the divorce petition using specific language in the Texas divorce statute. If you use language that is not within the statute, the court will likely strike it from the petition. You no longer need reasons like cruelty, adultery, felony conviction, abandonment, etc. to get a divorce, but if the court does find fault, the other spouse may get a disproportionate share of community property because one spouse committed a statutory wrong while married. Even if the wrong is not pled, the court can use information about it to divide assets.

Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce

Domicile Requirements for a Divorce in Texas

divorce in Texas

Generally, a person must be domiciled, or live, in Texas for the six-month period before the divorce suit is filed, and a resident of the county for the 90 days leading up to the suit. – Family Code Section 6.301. Only one party needs jurisdiction in the state to bring suit.

What if you do not live in Texas but your spouse does?

If you are domiciled in another state but your spouse is domiciled in Texas, you may still file suit for divorce in Texas so long as the Texas spouse has been domiciled in Texas for at least six months.

What if your spouse is not a resident of Texas but you want to get a divorce?

The court may acquire jurisdiction over the nonresident spouse if:

  • Texas was the last residence of the spouses while they were married and the suit for divorce is filed within two years of the time when the spouses stopped sharing a marital residence; or
  • There is a basis allowed by the U.S. Constitution for the exercise of personal jurisdiction; or
  • The court gets jurisdiction through a SAPCR proceeding over the nonresident party.

In other words, you can still serve a spouse that is not a resident if Texas was the last marital residence so long as it is filed before the second anniversary of the date on which marital residence ended, a SAPCR is filed, or, for example, you serve the spouse while they are visiting Texas.

However, Texas can grant a divorce having personal jurisdiction over one party only if there are no kids involved AND no property to divide.

How Long Does a Divorce Take in Texas?

My spouse and I have been separated for over a year, and now I’ve met someone new. How quickly can I be divorced?

All divorces, regardless of the time a couple has been separated, take a minimum of 60 days to finalize once filed. This 60-day period is referred to as a “cooling off” period, where both parties are given the opportunity to reflect on their decision to end the marriage before it is finalized by a judge.

In Texas, there is no recognized “legal separation.” You are either married or divorced. If you have been living apart from your spouse for an extended period of time and have decided it is time to legally end the marriage, you may wonder if you can expedite the divorce process.

Can you get legally separated in Texas?

No. Texas does not recognize separation as a way to end a marriage. If you and your spouse wish to separate, keep in mind that if you do not get a divorce, any property you obtain while separated is still considered community property. The same rule applies to debt. Any debt accrued by your spouse (or by you) is community property until you get divorced.

Do I have to go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce?

Yes. When spouses agree on the terms of a divorce, it is called an “uncontested divorce.” This essentially means all issues regarding the dissolution are agreed upon by both parties. These types of divorces are not unheard of – in fact, there are many couples who reach a mutual agreement to part ways. As amicable as your split from your spouse may be, you must still go before the judge with a written agreement in order to legally end the marriage.

How will Assets be Divided in a Divorce?

Every divorce is different, just as every estate is different. In most cases, the goal of the court is to provide an equitable division of the community estate, including both the assets and debts between spouses. There are extenuating circumstances that can result in a disproportionate division of the marital estate, but these cases are often few and far between. By understanding that the court’s default position is focused on an equal division, you will be able to tailor your arguments for an exception accordingly.

Can’t a couple just separate?

Not in Texas. Texas does not recognize legal separation. Does that make a difference? Yes. For example, any property you acquire while separated is still community property. If you get a divorce, property you acquire is yours alone after the divorce is finalized.

Do you need fault grounds in Texas to file for divorce?

No! You can have a no-fault divorce or allege fault grounds in Texas.

What should you remember when getting divorced?

You should keep in mind that divorce happens and blaming each other will only cost time and money. Keep the interests of your kids in mind, even if you have kids from before the marriage. Talk to your spouse and consider getting help if you need it. Keep a copy of all your records and keep them organized in a place your spouse does not have access. It is a good idea to keep at least three copies of everything: one for you, one for your lawyer, and one for the court. Consider hiring an attorney, especially if your spouse already has, to ensure your interests are represented. To sum up: the most important thing in considering a divorce is that you plan ahead.

What is a no-fault divorce and how do you get a no-fault divorce?

No fault means you are not alleging a historical ground for divorce and are communicating the marriage broke down without presenting evidence that the other spouse engaged in wrongdoing against you.

In Texas, for a no-fault divorce, one spouse has to testify and sign that they want the divorce granted. You do not need to prove the other party did something wrong. However, if there are kids from the marriage or there is property involved, it is unlikely a no fault-divorce is the route you can go.

A no-fault divorce can be a good option if you want to save some time and money as divorce proceedings can get lengthy and incredibly expensive. If you want to push for an unequal division of property in your favor, and the other spouse has done something to qualify for the previously mentioned grounds, alleging fault may be one way to get a division of property in your favor. But remember, the court decides how to divide the property.

There may also be some complicating issues that prevent a no-fault divorce from being granted. Children and property are two of the main complicating factors in a divorce proceeding. If there are children involved, the court must act in the best interest of the child, so a divorce proceeding will get more complicated as the court must determine things like child support and child custody. With property, the court must divide the property in an equitable way, meaning that the parties must be treated fairly, though this does not mean the property is simply divided in half.

There is some legislation being pushed forward that seeks to end the no-fault grounds, but none has become law in Texas at this time.

What is a collaborative divorce?

A collaborative divorce is a process where the spouses, and their attorneys, resolve divorce-related issues without going to trial. You do not have a public hearing, and you may keep costs down by avoiding litigation. You can create a plan of action that both parties are satisfied with and experts, including a neutral financial consultant and mental health professionals or counselors, help facilitate discussions until you and your spouse reach an agreement.

This may sound like mediation, but mediation is a different process. There, spouses work with one mediator who acts as a neutral party. Often, people do not hire attorneys for mediation, but work together with the mediator to come to an agreement.

In a collaborative divorce, both spouses have attorneys and the attorneys are paid equal amounts, so the plus side is that you avoid one spouse hiring a more expensive lawyer to get ahead. This process can be a good option for spouses who want to work together to create a child custody plan and want to cooperate.

If collaboration does not work, mediation or litigation are alternative options but typically your attorney, if used in a collaboration, must withdraw if the parties decide to go through with mediation or divorce.

You should not seek a collaborative divorce is there is domestic violence or abuse in the relationship, one party is financially disadvantaged, one party has a drug or alcohol abuse problem, or there is any mental illness affecting the parties.

How soon can you remarry after a divorce is granted?

You must wait 31 days to get remarried, unless you are marrying the person you divorced. The reason for the 31 days is to allow 30 days for a party to appeal, should they not agree with the outcome of the divorce proceeding. If you are marrying the person you divorced, the court may grant you a waiver of the waiting period.

Fort Worth Divorce Lawyers

Are you contemplating a divorce? Together our attorneys have over three decades of experience handling complex family law disputes in North Texas. Put their experience to work for you. Give us a call at (817) 900 3220.

Benson Varghese

Benson Varghese

Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He's been named a Super Lawyer and a Top Lawyer by Fort Worth Magazine.
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