While many inter-marital fights can be gruesome, divorce is the worst for some couples. Even so, many couples are able to put aside their differences, just momentarily, and agree to the terms of an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce involves a basic agreement on the terms of the divorce. Many couples find that prior agreement can result in a smoother separation process.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Texas uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Texas Defined
Unlike other states, Texas does not have a specific process available for couples who want to get an uncontested divorce. That said, Texas courts understand that there is a demand for simple no-hassle divorces, and courts will facilitate couples seeking an uncontested divorce.
In Texas, an uncontested divorce is essentially a divorce by agreement. Spouses seeking an uncontested divorce will file for a normal divorce and then agree on the terms of the divorce. While this process is very similar to the normal contested divorce process, it moves somewhat faster and involves significantly less effort and expense.
Requirements for Seeking a Texas Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Texas, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Texas divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The first requirement for seeking an uncontested divorce in Texas is the state residency requirement. The residency requirement has two tiers: state residency and county residency. Prior to filing for divorce, you must have both lived within the state of Texas for at least six months and within the county where you plan to file for divorce for at least ninety days.
Next, you need to allege grounds that justify your divorce. While Texas has seven different grounds for divorce, only the no-fault ground for divorce is relevant to an uncontested divorce. In Texas, couples may get a no-fault divorce where the marriage is insupportable, meaning that discord or conflicting personalities destroyed the marital relationship preventing reconciliation.
Finally, an uncontested divorce in Texas requires agreement between the parties. This agreement can take two different forms, either agreement before the lawsuit for divorce is filed, or agreement after the divorce is filed in the form of a settlement agreement drafted at an informal settlement conference.1 The simplest of the two options, however, is to come to a complete agreement with your spouse before the divorce is filed.
In general, an uncontested divorce requires complete agreement on the terms of the divorce. Failure to completely agree on each and every issue will result in your divorce being labeled as contested, which will result in the judge being forced to rule on each issue. All of the following issues must be agreed to by the spouses:
- That a divorce should occur at all
- Spousal support (also known as alimony);
- Child support (if applicable);
- Child custody, visitation, and parenting plans (if applicable);
- Communal property division; and
- Division of marital debts.
Once the spouses have agreed on the terms of the divorce, the divorce process can move forward more quickly.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Texas
Once you have determined which court is the proper court for filing, the general flow of the process is follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly;
- Second, you will want to compile the required divorce forms. Fortunately, for couples filing for divorce without the assistance of an attorney, the Texas Supreme Court has approved a set of draft divorce forms for use in Texas Courts.2
- Discuss the divorce with your spouse and try to come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce. While a contested divorce can become an uncontested divorce after an informal settlement conference, it is normally easier to begin the process as an uncontested divorce.
- Next, the filing spouse will need to file the divorce petition in the county in which you meet the residency requirement for the divorce. Filing in the wrong county can result in the dismissal of your case, so make sure to double check that you plan to file in the right court.
- If applicable, once the divorce petition is filed, you will need to notify the Office of the Attorney General and forward a copy of the petition to their office if your child has ever received welfare (TANF) or Medicaid.
- Next, you will need to serve your spouse with the divorce paperwork. You will need to deliver a file-stamped copy of the divorce petition to your spouse, and then he or she will need to sign either a waiver of service form or an original answer form (not both).
- Once the non-filing spouse has responded with either a waiver of service form or answer, you will need to fill out a final decree of divorce, which both spouses must sign.
- Finally, wait. Under Texas law, no divorce can be finalized until the spouses have waited for at least 60 days. After the waiting period, a judge will set a hearing date to finalize and sign off on your final decree of divorce.
If you have additional questions about Texas Divorce Law, a reputable non-profit called Texas Law Help offers basic assistance on its website to couples seeking a divorce.3
One final word of warning. At the time of this article’s writing, House Bill 65 is slowly making its way through the Texas legislature. That law would end the practice of no-fault divorce in Texas, making it significantly harder for couples to seek an uncontested divorce.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- For more information about informal settlement, see Tex. Fam. Code § 6.604.