Filing for divorce in Texas isn’t exactly complicated but there are certain steps our Fort Worth family law firm typically recommends to clients contemplating divorce. Consider the following five steps to help ensure you file for divorce 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 is licensed to practice law in the state where you reside.
If you plan to file for divorce in Texas, the divorce attorney you hire must be licensed to practice law in the state of Texas. You’ll also want to make sure the attorney practices near or is available to practice law in the county where you file. For example, the Sisemore Law Firm largely represents clients in Ellis, Wise, Johnson, Denton, Parker and Tarrant Counties but has represented clients in other Texas counties on occasion.
Your attorney can explain how to file for divorce, how to get a divorce, what to expect during the divorce process, what divorce forms are required and help you prepare the paperwork needed to file a petition for divorce.
The days leading up to divorce filings 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.
If you have no children and literally no assets, you may wonder about filing divorce online and what the divorce apply online process involves. The state of Texas does allow electronic filing or e-filing of divorce but not all courts accept e-files, which means you may still need to file for divorce in person. Check with your local county clerk’s office to find out if they will allow you to apply for divorce online.
Either way, most county government websites offer divorce forms to download and many online services are available to help you fill out divorce forms, if you want to go that route. However, if you and your spouse do have children and/or any community property, we highly recommend that you seek advice from legal counsel before trying to apply for divorce online.
Please read our post Do I need to hire an attorney for divorce? It may cost you more NOT to if you want to learn about the risks of NOT hiring a divorce attorney.
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 fees 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.
At this point, you may be wondering how much it costs to get a divorce and how you will pay your legal fees. If you hire a divorce attorney to represent you in Texas, you can expect to pay a retainer of $4,500 to $7,500 for starters, depending on the complexity of your case (custody, spousal support, complex property division, business interests, etc.). You’ll typically pay an additional $2,000-3,000 in legal fees during the discovery phase, and another $2,000-3,000 during mediation. If your case goes to trial, you will pay additional legal fees.
Planning for legal fees and 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 documents 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 filing. Planning for your financial future and being discreet 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.
Many mental health professionals specialize in helping clients learn how to divorce and manage the related mental and emotional distress in the healthiest way possible. They can also connect you with other helpful resources like support groups, books and other tools to help you deal with your divorce.
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 to file for divorce, which varies by county (about $200 and up). 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.
Of course, the road to divorce doesn’t stop there. It’s important to note that the state of Texas recently (effective January 1, 2021) changed its rules for discovery—the pre-trial process where parties to a lawsuit have the opportunity to request information pertaining to the lawsuit from other parties named in the lawsuit. Requests for discovery can’t be made until after initial disclosures are due.
The new rules also mandated that both parties to a divorce must submit certain required disclosures prior to trial and on a specific expedited timeline, depending on the type of case and discovery level. Check out our recent post—What is a discovery request?—to learn more.
Contact our Fort Worth family law firm for insight on filing for divorce in Texas
If you want to file for divorce in the Texas and need legal advice, our Fort Worth divorce attorneys are here to help. We can provide guidance on how to file for divorce, what information you will need to collect for your divorce files and what strategy we recommend for your case.