divorce laws in Texas

Divorce Laws in Texas

Divorce Laws in Texas

By Frank Vendt |

Divorce can be a complex and emotional journey, but understanding the specific divorce laws in your state is crucial to ensure a smooth and fair process.

If you’re considering or preparing for a divorce in Texas, this comprehensive guide will provide you with valuable insights into the divorce laws in Texas.

We will cover the grounds for divorce, the filing process, the division of marital assets, spousal maintenance, child custody, and more.

Understanding the Grounds for Divorce in Texas

In Texas, couples can file for both fault-based and no-fault divorces. The no-fault option, known as “insupportability,” is the most common ground for divorce.

It simply means that the marriage has become insupportable due to irreconcilable differences.

In Texas, couples seeking a divorce can also choose from six different grounds for dissolution of marriage.

Understanding these grounds can help individuals navigate the divorce process and determine the most appropriate option for their specific situation.

Here are the other grounds for divorce in Texas as per Texas Family Code:

  • Adultery: Adultery is when one spouse engages in a voluntary sexual relationship with someone outside the marriage. To establish adultery as a ground for divorce, the innocent spouse must provide clear and convincing evidence of the infidelity.
  • Cruelty: Cruelty refers to any treatment that renders the spouse’s living conditions intolerable. It includes physical or emotional abuse that endangers the safety or well-being of the other spouse. To prove cruelty as a ground for divorce, evidence such as medical records, photographs, witnesses, or police reports may be required.
  • Felony: If one spouse has been found guilty of a felony offense and imprisoned for at least one year, the other spouse can file for divorce based on this ground. The conviction must have occurred after the marriage took place, and the incarcerated spouse must still be in prison at the time of filing.
  • Abandonment: If one spouse leaves the other without any intention of returning, it can be a ground for divorce in Texas. For abandonment to be a valid ground for divorce, the abandonment must have lasted for at least one year continuously. Additionally, the deserted spouse must provide evidence of the spouse’s intent to abandon the marriage.
  • Living apart: If the couple has been living apart for a minimum of three years, they can seek a divorce based on this ground. Living apart means the absence of a marital relationship, with no intention of reconciliation.
  • Mental illness: An individual can file for divorce in Texas if their spouse has been in a mental hospital for a minimum duration of three years. In addition, the nature of the mental health disorder is such that adjustment is unlikely or there is a likelihood of future relapse or continued mental illness.

Who can File for Divorce in Texas?

In Texas, either spouse can file for divorce as long as one spouse meets the residency requirements and has grounds for divorce as recognized by Texas law.

The divorce laws in Texas pertaining to residency requirements are listed in Texas Family Code, Section 6.301 while Section 6.302 describes the criteria for nonresident spouses to file for divorce in Texas.

Per Section 6.301, either spouse must have been a resident of Texas for at least six continuous months before filing for divorce. In addition, they must have been residents of the county where the divorce petition is filed for at least 90 days.

Non-residents can also file for divorce in Texas if their spouse has been a legal resident of Texas for a minimum of six months. The divorce papers have to be filed in the county where the Texas resident currently resides.

Another aspect of divorce laws in Texas is that a Texas resident who has spent time outside of the state while in public service is considered a resident of the state.

Other than these, the most commonly asked questions on divorce laws in Texas relate to marital assets, child custody, and maintenance.

We will talk about the specific divorce laws in Texas that cover these in the next few sections.

Divorce Laws in Texas: Child Custody, Marital Assets, and Maintenance

Understanding these aspects is crucial for individuals navigating the divorce process, as it can greatly impact financial stability, parental rights, and ongoing support.

Division of Marital Assets in Texas

Assets that may be subject to property division can include real estate, vehicles, financial accounts, retirement accounts, investments, businesses, and personal property acquired during the marriage.

Texas follows the principle of community property when dividing marital assets. This means that most property acquired during the marriage is considered community property and subject to a “just and right ” division between the spouses.

However, this does not mean that the division is always on a 50/50 basis. Certain exceptions exist, such as separate property brought into the marriage or acquired through inheritance and a spouse committing fraud.

It’s important to establish the character of each asset, whether it is community property or separate property, as this distinction determines how it will be divided.

Separate property typically includes assets

  • owned by a spouse before the marriage,
  • assets received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage,
  • or any property specifically designated as separate in a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

When dividing marital assets in Texas, the court considers various factors, including:

  • Needs of each spouse: The court takes into account the financial needs and circumstances of each spouse, including their earning capacity, health, and age.
  • Child custody and support: If children are involved, the court considers the custodial arrangement and the financial needs of the children when dividing assets.
  • Contribution to the marriage: The court examines the contributions of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of the marital estate. This includes both financial contributions and non-financial contributions, such as homemaking and child-rearing.
  • Future economic prospects: The court considers the future economic prospects of each spouse, including their ability to earn income and become self-supporting.

Another factor that courts will look into when dividing the marital assets is the ‘fraud on the community.

Per divorce laws in Texas, when one spouse, without their spouse’s approval, spends community funds on or transfers the assets to someone else, they are deemed to have committed “fraud on the community.”

In this case, the wronged spouse must prove that their spouse had the intent of deception and that they acted dishonestly.

If the court is convinced of the same, they may award an appropriate share of the marital assets to the wronged spouse in addition to a possible money judgment.

The process of proving the ‘intent’ of deception or dishonesty is a complicated process. This is where the guidance of an experienced divorce attorney in Texas comes in handy.

It is important to note that debts are also divided between spouses per divorce laws in Texas. Some of the commonly divided debts include:

  • Mortgage payments
  • Loans
  • Credit card debts
  • Rent owed

Spousal Maintenance 

Spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony, may be awarded in Texas under specific circumstances.

Courts consider factors such as the duration of the marriage, the ability to provide for oneself, and any instances of family violence are considered when determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate. In addition, the court carefully evaluates the financial needs and resources of both parties to establish a fair support arrangement.

Generally, spousal maintenance may be awarded if:

  • The spouse that is required to pay maintenance was convicted of family violence during the marriage
  • The family violence was committed within two years of filing for divorce in Texas
  • The spouse requiring maintenance would not have adequate property after the divorce or is unable to earn because of a mental disability or incapacitating physical condition.
  • The spouse asking for maintenance has the custody of a child who requires personal supervision or substantial care due to a health condition.
  • The spouse asking for maintenance is unable to work due to the substantial care needs of their child.
  • The spouse requiring maintenance has been married for 10 or more years and is not able to reenter the workforce due to the long gap.

Child Custody

When determining child custody, Texas courts prioritize the best interests of the child. Both parents are encouraged to reach a mutually agreeable parenting plan, including decisions regarding conservatorship (custody) and visitation.

However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the court will step in and make decisions based on various factors. These include the child’s emotional and physical well-being, parental abilities, and the child’s own preferences depending on their age and maturity.

How to File for Divorce in Texas

To initiate the divorce process, you must file a petition with the appropriate district court in your county. This petition should include essential information such as your marital history, grounds for divorce, and desired outcomes regarding child custody, division of assets, and support.

Working with an experienced divorce attorney can help ensure your petition is prepared accurately and efficiently.

Here are the steps to follow to file for divorce in Texas:

Meet residency requirements: To file for divorce in Texas, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months prior to filing. Additionally, you or your spouse must have lived in the county where you plan to file for at least 90 days.

Prepare the petition: The first step in initiating a divorce is to prepare the Petition for Divorce. This document outlines your personal information, details about your marriage, and the specific relief you are seeking, such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division.

File the petition: Once you have completed the petition, you will need to file it with the district clerk’s office in the county where you or your spouse resides. You will need to pay a filing fee at this stage unless you qualify for a fee waiver based on your income.

Serve the petition: You need to ensure your spouse is formally served with a copy of the filed Petition and a citation, which informs them of the divorce filing. The citation provides a deadline for responding to the Petition.

Waiting period: Texas has a mandatory waiting period of 60 days from the date the petition is filed before a divorce can be finalized. This waiting period is intended to provide an opportunity for reconciliation, but it may be waived under certain circumstances.

Reach an agreement: During the waiting period, you and your spouse will have the opportunity to negotiate and reach agreements on various issues. These include child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and property division.

If you can reach an agreement, you can document it in a written settlement agreement or a “divorce decree.”

Finalize the divorce: If you and your spouse have reached an agreement, you can present it to the court for approval. The court will review the agreement to ensure it is fair and in the best interest of any children involved. If the court approves, it will issue a final divorce decree that legally ends your marriage.

Trial: If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement on all issues, your case may proceed to trial. During the trial, both parties will present evidence and arguments to the court, and the judge will make decisions regarding unresolved matters.

The time it takes to finalize a divorce in Texas can vary depending on several factors, including the complexity of the case, court availability, and the level of cooperation between the parties.

On average, uncontested divorces may be resolved within a few months, while contested divorces can take significantly longer, sometimes stretching beyond a year.

Get the Best Legal Support

By familiarizing yourself with the grounds for divorce, the filing process, asset division, spousal maintenance, and child custody considerations, you can navigate the divorce journey with greater confidence.

However, navigating the intricacies of divorce laws in Texas can be overwhelming, especially during an emotionally challenging time. The good news is, you don’t have to face it alone.

Hiring a skilled and knowledgeable Texas divorce attorney, such as The Vendt Law Firm, can provide numerous benefits.

We can guide you through the entire process, protect your rights, provide expert advice, help negotiate fair settlements, and represent your interests in court if necessary.

Get in touch with us today for expert legal support and guidance on all aspects of the divorce laws of Texas.