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How to complete your divorce the right way: The Final Decree of Divorce in a Texas Divorce

Ever felt like you were dropped in the middle of the Amazon with nothing but a compass and a sense of hope? Welcome to the world of Texas divorce laws! It's a jungle out there, and you're about to embark on a journey that will test your wits and resilience. But fear not, dear reader, for this guide is your trusty machete, ready to clear a path through the dense legal undergrowth.

In this grand expedition, we're tackling a question as big as Texas: how does one navigate the potentially rough terrain of filing for divorce without an attorney? The short answer? With caution, preparation, and a good map - which is exactly what we aim to provide.

Embark with us as we explore the wilds of community property laws, decipher cryptic legal jargon, and reveal hidden resources waiting to assist you. We'll be right there with you, sharing our most trusted tips and tricks and offering a friendly hand when the going gets tough.

You're not just a reader here; you're an explorer. And in Texas divorce laws, knowledge is your greatest ally. So pack your bags, tighten your bootstraps, and prepare to delve into the wild unknown. There's a journey ahead, and it all starts with the very next paragraph.

Ready to venture forth? Let's get started!

Venturing into the Divorce Jungle: Your Guide to Navigating Texas Divorce Laws

If you are getting a divorce in Texas, everything you do throughout the life of your case leads you toward the Final Decree of Divorce. This document contains the final orders from the judge in your case. It will direct your actions regarding all your children's issues and property from your marriage. You are bound to follow the orders and comply with the requirements of this document or risk facing penalties from the court for violating them. Your case does not amount to much more than negotiations with some headaches with these orders.

It is not an exaggeration to say that if your Final Decree of Divorce is not well-drafted, it is not worth the printed paper. The whole point to divorce is obtaining orders you can enforce in the future if your spouse violates some of them. Unclear, incomplete, or otherwise deficient orders mean that the judge will not enforce them. You could find yourself in a situation where everyone involved knows that you meant something, but if the order isn't explicitly clear, a judge will not go out on a limb to enforce it.

Hopefully, you can tell just how important it is for you to have a Final Decree of Divorce that is exceptionally well thought out and, even more importantly, is drafted to remove any doubt about your intentions in negotiating for it. In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I would like to share some advice about how best to draft a Final Decree of Divorce.

I will note that even if you have an attorney representing you in your divorce or plan on hiring an attorney, it is still a good idea to know how your final decree will be drafted. After all, you will be expected to read every word of your last order before signing it. You need to understand how your attorney will approach drawing this very long document so that you can ask questions and learn about the process as well as you possibly can.

What does it mean to have a final decree of divorce?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but your final divorce decree is significant to your life now and in the future. If you have children, the orders it contains will impact how frequently you will see them, with whom your children will live regularly, and how much child support you will pay or be paid. To summarize, your marching orders are contained in the final divorce decree.

If you are representing yourself in your divorce, you must have this document drafted and signed well before heading to court for your proof-up hearing. It is not wise to come to court with some notes and then expect you or your spouse to draft the orders while you are in the courtroom. It takes a seasoned attorney day to prepare a final decree of divorce correctly. That much (and more) is what it should take you or your spouse. If you think you have an excellent final divorce decree drafted, you should go back and check again.

The other thing that you should keep in mind is that primarily if you are representing yourself in the divorce that the judge in your case can and will make changes to the final wording in the divorce if the information has been left out that is necessary or if a mistake has been made. For instance, if you and your spouse have agreed to something against state law or public policy, the judge may cross out your language and insert his own that conforms to these two principles. That doesn't mean you have done anything wrong or angered the judge. It's just that the judge has a job to do regarding following the law.

The last thing that I will note about this subject is that if you are representing yourself in the divorce, you do not have to take on the monumental task of drafting a final divorce decree on your own without the assistance of an attorney. You may choose to hire an attorney based on a limited-scope agreement. In this relationship, you will pay an attorney a lessened fee to review any settlement agreement between you and your spouse and draft the final decree.

Now, if you pay the attorney more money to represent you fully, the lawyer would be willing to perform these tasks for you. However, an attorney who is a drafter of a final decree or a reviewer of the draft you created is a limited scope attorney and does not represent you in your divorce case. This attorney will not (likely) be willing to attend a hearing with you and will not speak to your opposing counsel if your spouse has an attorney.

What role do your retirement accounts play in drafting the final divorce decree?

If you or your spouse has a retirement fund that needs to be divided, you must have drafted a form called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). The QDRO is a document directed to the plan administrator for the retirement plan that needs to be divided per the instructions in the final divorce decree. It Is not as simple as filling out this form on the day of your hearing. It would help if you got this form drafted well in advance. Check with your attorney to ensure that this has been done.

First, you will need to contact the retirement plan administrator as soon as you know that it will be divided up in your divorce. Get the administrator or their office and the phone and let them know that you need them to send you the language to be included in the QDRO. The issue is that not all QDROs should be drafted the same. Your plan may require specific language to be included in the QDRO to divide it up. If you or your attorney use boilerplate language found on the internet without checking the plan first, you will be in trouble.

The easiest thing is asking the plan administrator if they would be willing to email you a sample/template of the language that needs to be mimicked in your QDRO. It is not a bad idea to ask a local attorney to sit down with you and review the QDRO that needs to be drafted.

You may even be able to find an attorney who will accept a flat fee to draft your QDRO once you know how it needs to be drawn. You do not want to put yourself in a position where you are sacrificing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars due to your inability to draft the QDRO correctly. All the more reason to seriously consider hiring an experienced family law attorney to represent you in your divorce.

Keep in mind that if you or your spouse do not own a retirement fund or are not receiving a portion of an account held in the other spouse's name, a QDRO does not need to be drafted.

What about debt? Is that important in a final decree of divorce?

Debt is one of the things that we wish we could forget all about and often do forget all about. I bet when you talk to friends and family about your divorce, that debt is probably not in the top five or maybe even in the top ten issues of your case that you mention to other people. Yes, it is an important subject, but there are so many other pressing subjects in your divorce to divert your attention from debt.

The most crucial part of the debt in a divorce is that you and your spouse can choose to divide up however you all want. A judge, likewise, can do the same. As long as that division of debt does not run afoul of a creditor's rights or go against state law or public policy, those debts can be divided in whatever fashion you or the judge choose.

However, the debt division in the final divorce decree does not necessarily mean that a creditor will abide by those orders. Likely, the individual creditors will not care how you and your spouse decided to divide your debts in the divorce. Let's walk through an example to illustrate just how much difference there can be between how the decree divides your debts and how a creditor treats your debts.

Let's say that you and your spouse purchased a home together. Along with buying that home, you also took out a mortgage to pay for that home. The mortgage bears the name of you and your spouse. You signed up for the loan and are on the hook for its payment according to the loan terms. Just because you are responsible for its income under the decree does not mean that the creditor can't come after you for repayment.

What ends up happening is that a person leaves the divorce breathing freely because he thinks that the divorce decree can be sent to the creditor to show that he is no longer responsible for paying that loan. The creditor will not consider the order and what it says at all. Your agreement with them was signed before your final decree of divorce. If your spouse falls behind on paying the mortgage, you are still responsible for the mortgage payment.

There are ways to protect yourself in situations like this, more than just those involving a house with a mortgage on it after your divorce. The key is getting protection if your spouse agrees to take on debt. It could be that the safety comes in the form of additional documents that they will sign to make sure that you can come back and get the house if she falls behind in payment or receive an amount of community property equal to the loan's value so that you can be compensated for taking on the risk of your spouse not paying the note after your divorce.

Understanding the Final Decree of Divorce in Texas: A Comprehensive Guide

When you're going through a divorce in Texas, one of the most key documents you'll encounter is the final divorce decree. This document can essentially shape your life post-divorce; thus, it's crucial to understand its nuances and implications.

What is the Final Decree of Divorce?

The final decree of divorce is a document that encapsulates the court's final orders. This essential document contains directives about child custody, division of property, debt allocation, and other relevant aspects of your marital dissolution. The final divorce decree is binding; failing to adhere to its directives can invite penalties.

The Significance of a Well-drafted Final Decree of Divorce

A well-drafted final decree of divorce holds immense significance. Its clarity and comprehensiveness can serve as a safety net, ensuring that your interests are protected and the decree's terms are enforceable. Ambiguous or incomplete decrees can result in unenforceable orders, leaving you in a precarious situation.

Involvement of a Legal Expert: A Prudent Choice

While navigating your divorce proceedings without legal representation is possible, involving a legal expert is always beneficial. An experienced attorney can meticulously draft your final divorce decree, reducing the chances of ambiguities and protecting your interests.

The Role of Retirement Accounts in the Final Decree of Divorce

If you or your spouse possess a retirement fund that needs division, it's crucial to draft a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). This document directs the retirement plan administrator regarding the division, as per the instructions in the final decree of divorce.

The Significance of Debt in a Final Decree of Divorce

Often overlooked, debt is a significant aspect of divorce proceedings. The division of debt, however, doesn't necessarily bind creditors. Thus, the final divorce decree must account for this discrepancy, ensuring protection against potential non-payment of debt by your ex-spouse.

Child Custody and Visitation Rights

Courts typically aim to protect the child's best interests, and these factors greatly influence the final decree. In a Texas divorce, the final decree will define child custody and visitation rights. Understanding these terms and how they are decided is crucial for parents.

Alimony or Spousal Support

Alimony or spousal support is another topic that is often part of the final decree. It relates to the financial support one spouse may need to pay to the other post-divorce. The amount and duration of this support can significantly impact both parties.

Property Division

While the article mentions debts and retirement accounts, the final decree also deals with the division of marital property. This could include real estate, cars, personal belongings, and other assets. Understanding how property division works can help ensure a fair outcome.

Mediation and Divorce

Mediation is a process where a neutral third party helps couples resolve disputes and reach agreement on divorce-related issues. It is often a part of the divorce process and can significantly influence the final decree.

Emotional and Mental Health Implications

Divorce can have substantial emotional and mental health impacts. It's essential to seek support and resources to manage these aspects during and post-divorce.

Post-Divorce Modifications

Life doesn't stand still post-divorce, and changes may necessitate modifications to the final decree. Understanding how to navigate these modifications is crucial.

Life After Divorce

Life after divorce may seem daunting, but it is a new beginning. Adjusting to new routines, co-parenting, and moving on is all part of this next phase.

When to Consider Filing for Divorce Without an Attorney

If you're considering filing for divorce in Texas without an attorney, it's typically advisable in cases where the divorce is uncontested. An uncontested or "agreed divorce" means that both parties agree on all key issues, including child custody, visitation, child support, and property division. However, consulting with an attorney is generally recommended if your divorce may be contested or disagreements exist.

Understanding Community Property in Texas

It's important to note that Texas is a "community property" state. This implies that, in most instances, assets and money acquired during the marriage are legally shared by both spouses. This concept plays a significant role in the division of assets during the divorce process.

Key Legal Terms in the Divorce Process

During the divorce process, you may encounter some binding legal terms:

Legal Term


Agreed Divorce

A divorce is "agreed" if both spouses agree about all the issues (including custody, visitation, and child support) and are both willing to sign the divorce forms.

Community Property

Texas is a "community property" state. This means that in most cases, property and money obtained during the marriage legally belongs to both spouses.

Default Divorce

A default divorce is when one party fails to respond to the divorce petition.


The person who initiates the divorce process by filing the petition for divorce with the court.


The spouse who did not file for divorce. They can respond by filing an answer, a counter-petition, or doing nothing when served with divorce papers.

Service or Service of Process

The formal act of notifying someone that a lawsuit has been filed against them.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce can mean either an agreed divorce or a default divorce. In an uncontested divorce, there are no disagreements about what the parties want to happen.

Resources and Assistance

The Texas State Law Library offers various resources that may be beneficial during the process, including eBooks that contain forms or drafting guides for divorce. However, state agencies typically cannot offer legal advice to the public. Therefore, if you need further assistance, it's suggested to contact an attorney or a legal aid organization.

Emerging from the Divorce Jungle: A Celebration of Your Journey

Well, dear explorer, we've reached the end of this chapter, but your journey through the wilderness of Texas divorce laws is just beginning. A bit like emerging from a dense jungle into a clearing, wouldn't you say?

We've navigated the undergrowth, swung on the vines of legal jargon, and paddled down the fast-flowing rivers of community property laws. You've learned the lingo, understood the roles, and found the resources to take on this adventure. You've gained the tools to face a Texas divorce without an attorney, a challenge as big as the Lone Star state.

We won't sugarcoat it, it's a path that requires bravery and determination. But remember, every explorer knows the journey is as important as the destination. And in this journey, you're not alone. With this guide in your backpack, you've got a reliable compass to navigate your way.

It's possible to venture into a Texas divorce without an attorney, especially in an uncontested or "agreed" divorce. It's a journey you can embark on, armed with understanding, preparation, and a touch of Texas-sized courage. So, what's the short answer to the big question we set out to explore?

So here's to new beginnings and continued journeys. As you step forward, remember the wisdom of a famous explorer, who once said, "The only impossible journey is the one you never begin." And remember, the stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.

Keep exploring, brave adventurer, and remember to take this guide along for the ride

Other Related Articles

  1. What is a Final Decree of Divorce?
  2. What Happens if my Ex-Spouse Refuses to Sign the Final Decree of Divorce Revisited
  3. What if My Ex Will Not Sign the Final Decree in My Texas Divorce?
  4. Examining the Process for Modifying a Divorce Decree in the State of Texas
  5. The Basics of Divorce Decree Modification
  6. What to do when your divorce decree does not include a marital asset?
  7. Can an Alimony Decree Be Enforced?
  8. Modifying your divorce decree in Texas

FAQs about Final Decree of Divorce in Texas

What is the final decree of divorce form Texas?

The final decree of divorce in Texas is a document that contains the final orders from the judge in a divorce case. It directs actions regarding child-related issues and property division that arose from the marriage. Parties involved in the divorce are bound to follow the orders outlined in the final decree or face penalties for non-compliance.

At what point is a divorce final in Texas?

A divorce in Texas is considered final once the court issues a final decree of divorce. This typically occurs after all the required legal processes, including the resolution of any outstanding issues, have been completed. It is important to note that the divorce is not final until the court issues the final decree.

How long does it take to get a divorce decree in the mail in Texas?

The time it takes to receive a divorce decree in the mail in Texas can vary depending on several factors, such as the workload of the court and the efficiency of the mailing system. Generally, it may take a few weeks to several months to receive the divorce decree after the court issues it. It is advisable to consult with your attorney or the court clerk for more specific information regarding the timeline in your case.

Does a divorce decree expire in Texas?

No, a divorce decree does not expire in Texas. Once the court issues the final decree of divorce, it remains valid indefinitely, outlining the rights, obligations, and provisions agreed upon or ordered by the court. However, certain aspects of the decree, such as child custody or visitation arrangements, may be modified in the future if there are substantial changes in circumstances that warrant a modification. It is advisable to consult with an attorney for guidance on modifying a divorce decree.

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