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Filing for Divorce in Texas

If you are considering filing for divorce, it's a given that you will have questions:

  1. How do I file for divorce?
  2. Should I file first or wait for my spouse to serve papers?
  3. Do I need my spouse's consent to get divorced?
  4. What will happen to my children, assets, and future once papers are filed?

We understand how easy it is to feel overwhelmed entirely during this challenging time in your life. Ready to start moving forward? One of the best first steps in making decisions about divorce is to get educated about your rights and options.

Read on for essentials about the divorce process in Texas and how to file, what happens after filing, and the rights you may be entitled to:

Understanding How to Begin the Texas Divorce Process

To help with understanding the various steps and stages of filing for divorce in Texas, it is essential to understand the divorce process.

Stage 1: Beginning the Divorce Process

Filing a Petition for Divorce in Texas

The first step in a Texas divorce action is for one spouse to file a Petition for divorce with the court. Some couples choose to engage in mediation or settlement negotiations first, but one spouse must file a Petition before the court orders a judgment of divorce.

The party who files the Petition becomes the petitioner, and the other becomes the respondent. The court will assign a cause number to the case, stamp the Petition with the cause number and the filing date, and then return it to the petitioner.

If you are the petitioner, your Petition will include a request for the divorce itself, as well as for any additional relief you are seeking, such as:

  1. division of marital property
  2. alimony
  3. child custody
  4. or child support

It will also include one or more "grounds" for the divorce.

Serving Petition on Respondent

After receiving the filed Petition back from the court, the petitioner must serve the respondent with a citation and then file proof of service with the court.

When the respondent is served with the paperwork, the citation will say, "You have been sued. You may employ an attorney. If you or your attorney do not file a written answer with the clerk who issued this citation by 10:00 a.m. on Monday next following the expiration of twenty days after you were served this citation and petition, a default judgment may be taken against you."

This means the respondent has "approximately" 20 days to file an answer (the respondent will need to pull out a calendar and county 20 days and then figure out when the following Monday is after that). An answer can also include a counterclaim stating the same or different grounds for divorce and seeking affirmative relief.

If Respondent Does Not Respond

If the respondent does not respond to the Petition within the correct amount of time, the petitioner can file a request for default judgment.


A default judgment in a Texas divorce is when the person served with the divorce petition fails to file a written answer as they were directed to in the notice within the required time.

This failure to respond allows the person who filed for divorce to seek a default judgment from the court. A default judgment is a judgment entered by the divorce court. This judgment will be for whatever is asked for by the person who filed for divorce within reason.

The asking party will still have to provide evidence showing:

  1. The property division is "just and right."
  2. What they are asking for regarding the children is in their "best interest."

However, I always tell people it is easy to win a one-sided argument. If the other spouse is not there to contradict them, the court only has one set of facts.

After the Initial Pleadings Have Been Filed

The case will then continue through some or all of the additional stages of theTexas Divorce Process. We have information under Texas Divorce Road Map to get more information on all stages.

How do I start filing for a divorce in Texas?

The traditional way of starting a divorce in Texas is to file a Petition with the courthouse. So, what you need to do essentially is to create a package.

A lawyer knows how to do it very simply, but if you were to do it on your own, ultimately, you need the Petition for the divorce itself. In the Petition, you give a lot of information about you, your spouse, your children, where you live, and other types of information, but most importantly, you need to choose a ground for divorce.

What is that?

There are seven valid grounds to specify in a divorce petition. Six are fault grounds and one (insupportability) no-fault grounds. Those grounds include:

  1. Living apart
  2. Confinement in a mental hospital
  3. Cruelty
  4. Abandonment
  5. Conviction of a felony
  6. Adultery
  7. Insupportability

Insupportability as a ground for divorce means that at least one of the spouses wants a divorce.

Ultimately, you can choose any of the grounds. There's a whole host of grounds that you can select from. You don't have to choose one; in fact, you can choose many, but you need at least one ground to file your Petition.

Other documents go with your Petition for divorce, too, and those are required to be attached to this package, and the court needs them to be attached; otherwise, your Petition will not be accepted by the court.

When you file that Petition, that's how the court recognizes that you exist as a new case. They affix a cause number, which essentially is your case number, and that's how the court knows who you are and how to recognize you when you come to the court into the future.

If you are reading this information, whether you are considering filing for divorce or your spouse has already filed, we know that this is a challenging time for you. We can help. Call us to schedule a free initial consultation.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. How to Begin Your Texas Divorce
  2. Getting Uncontested Texas Divorce
  3. Texas Divorce Attorney Explains Starting the TX Divorce Process
  4. Grounds for Divorce in Texas
  5. Why do divorces cost so much in Texas?
  6. Reduce stress and costs in a divorce by mediating your case
  7. How to budget for a cost-friendly divorce in Texas
  8. Cost Cutting Tips for your Texas Divorce
  9. Why do divorces cost so much in Texas?
  10. How Can I Get My Spouse to Pay My Attorney's Fees in a Texas Divorce?
  11. How am I going to Pay for My Texas Divorce?
  12. 8 Tips for Reducing the Cost of a Divorce in Texas
  13. Texas Out-Of-State, International Divorce & Military Divorce

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