Filing for divorce in Texas isn’t exactly complicated but there are certain steps our Tarrant County family law firm typically recommends to clients contemplating divorce. Consider the following five steps to help ensure you file properly and best prepare your family for divorce—legally, financially and mentally.
Step 1: Make sure you meet state and county residency requirements.
If you want to get divorced in Texas, you need to reside in the state for at least six months first. In addition, either you or your spouse will need to have established residency for a minimum of 90 days in the county where you plan to file.
Step 2: Hire a family law attorney who practices in the county where you plan to file.
If you plan to file for divorce in Tarrant County, the divorce attorney you hire must be licensed to practice in Tarrant County and the state of Texas. Your attorney can explain what to expect during the divorce process and help you prepare the paperwork needed to file a petition for divorce.
The days leading up to filing are critical because that’s when you and your attorney will review the merits of your case and develop a strategy for your divorce. He or she will also help you determine what if any allegations or initial requests to make when you file. For example, you may want to request that your spouse move out of the family home and that the children stay with you. Allegations may include incidences of substance abuse, adultery, fraud, domestic violence, abandonment and others.
Together, you and your divorce attorney will also decide whether to file your petition for divorce based on fault grounds or no-fault grounds. There are four fault grounds for divorce in Texas, including cruelty, adultery, felony conviction and abandonment and three no-fault grounds insupportability (commonly referred to as irreconcilable differences), living apart and confinement to a mental hospital.
Step 3: Get your finances in order for the short- and long-term.
If you want to get a divorce, you will need money to file your petition, pay legal feels and cover living expenses after you file—and it is vital to plan ahead. Prior to filing, you may also want to consider opening new bank and credit card accounts in your name only, so you have access to funds.
Planning for adequate cash flow is only one step. As soon as you start thinking about divorce, it’s also important to take an inventory of your assets and discreetly make copies of your family’s financial documents. These may include tax returns, mortgage statements, bank and credit card statements, retirement and pension account statements, insurance policies, trusts, etc. Keep copies in a safe place and provide duplicate copies to your attorney.
At the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth, we also recommend doing the above before filing a petition for divorce if possible. Unfortunately, we’ve seen many occasions where joint accounts have been drained and paperwork has disappeared after a spouse caught wind of a divorce. Planning for your financial future is essential during divorce.
Step 4: Seek guidance from a mental health professional, especially if you have kids.
Divorce is tough on everyone involved but especially children. Before you file, speak with a family therapist or member of the clergy to learn how to mentally prepare your children for the divorce process and help them cope. If you don’t have children but are concerned about your own mental health, consider seeking professional help sooner rather than later.
Step 5: Head to the county courthouse to file, then notify your spouse.
You can file for divorce yourself or have your divorce attorney file on your behalf. Again, the divorce petition must be filed in the county where either you or your spouse resides. You will also need to pay a fee of $300 or more to file for divorce in Tarrant County (review the Tarrant County fee structure here). The state of Texas also requires divorce petitioners to notify their spouses that a petition has been filed, something known as “service.” Ask your attorney about the different service methods available to you.
Contact our Fort Worth family law firm for insight on filing for divorce in Texas
If you’re considering filing for divorce in Tarrant County and need legal advice, our Fort Worth divorce attorneys are here to help. To schedule a consultation with our founder Justin Sisemore, visit our contact page or give us a call at 817.406.2470 to learn more.