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Residency Requirements

Determining the details of how to file for divorce is a key part of your journey toward divorcing your spouse. There is an old saying that I think is particularly appropriate when it comes to this subject: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. That is true on a hike and it's true in a divorce. You need to be able to know the route you plan to take in a divorce to arrive at your destination. Ok, I'll spare you additional philosophical statements. We're going to provide you with the necessary information that you need to get divorced today here on the blog for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

Getting divorced is not a mystery. Getting divorced is not a complicated process that takes years for a person to figure out. All the steps are available for you online. You can read through our blog and see every step that you would need to know about when it comes to getting divorced. You are not going to suffer from a lack of information when it comes to getting divorced in Texas. There are almost too many sources of information for you to choose from when it comes to getting divorced. 

Where are you now? Where do you want to get divorced?

These are two of the first, practical questions that you need to ask yourself before starting the divorce process. It's not like you can just send an email to a courthouse and start the divorce process started. It's a little more specific than that, but luckily not by much! However, you do need to learn how a divorce gets started by following the rules of the court (also known as the law). That process begins with figuring out where you are physically located right now. Look around you. Check the “weather” app on your phone if you are still not sure and then get back to me. 

Now that you know physically where you are located, we can discuss where it is that you need to file for divorce. You can get divorced in Texas if you are a resident of the state of Texas. Here is how residency is determined for a Texas divorce. Before the date on which you plan to file for divorce, you need to have been living here for at least six months. On top of that, you need to have lived in the county where you plan to file for divorce for at least the past ninety days. Let's go through an example to better explain this concept. 

You moved to Texas eight months ago. You live in Houston, Harris County. You have lived in Harris County for the entire time you have lived in Texas. As a result, you can file for divorce in Harris County, Texas. On the other hand, if you had moved to Texas eight months ago, lived in Harris County for six months but then moved to Montgomery County two months ago you would not yet be able to file for divorce in Texas even though you meet the residency requirements for the state. The reason is that you do not meet the residency requirements for a county here in Texas given that you have not lived in a specific county in Texas for at least ninety days before filing. Next month at this time you would be able to file for divorce in Montgomery County, but not quite yet. 

Once you have determined that you are a resident of Texas then you can file for divorce here. You can file for divorce in Texas no matter if you were married here or not. You don't even need to have been married in the United States to get divorced through a Texas court. Some combination of the laws of Texas and the laws of your home state/jurisdiction may be utilized. You will need to consult with an attorney about your specific circumstances to determine the details. If you own property outside of Texas, then a Texas court may not be able to issue orders regarding that property. However, for most people who have lived in Texas and have typical circumstances involving divorce the Texas divorce court will be able to handle all the matters related to your marriage. 

Another relevant situation for some of you reading this blog post involves being married in Texas but now living outside of Texas. If you got married here in Texas but no longer live in Texas, then you do not need to file for divorce in the Texas County where you got married. For one, you don’t qualify for residency here and therefore it would be a waste of your time. For two, your life is in your new location, and it would make more sense to file for divorce there. You’re always welcome to come back to Texas to visit but you do not need to file for divorce here. 

So, now you know where you need to file for divorce. It's likely that you got married in Texas and need to get divorced in Texas. Figure out where you are a resident and then plan to file for divorce there. Most counties in Texas follow pretty much the same timelines for all divorce events. The deadlines, etc. are set by state law so they will not vary all that much from place to place. Here is what you need to know once you determine where you need to file your divorce 

What comes next after you have determined where you need to file for divorce?

Once you have figured out where to file that still leaves you in a position where you need to determine what to file when to file, and those sorts of questions. Filing for divorce is an online process at this stage. You would need to go to the county or district clerk's website for your jurisdiction to find out what the requirements are for filing for divorce. Drafting a divorce petition, paying for a citation, and temporary orders being drafted are just a few of the steps that you will need to undertake to get divorced.

If that seems like a lot- it’s because it is. It takes some effort to get divorced. You have to have a plan, but you also need to learn the rules. If you have a job, a family, and responsibilities outside of learning the ins and outs of a Texas divorce case then you probably will need some help. Most people find help in their divorce scenarios by hiring an experienced family law attorney. For instance, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. We want to make it easy for you to talk to us about your specific divorce scenarios. 

Otherwise, if you plan to file for divorce, you should get your Original Petition for Divorce drafted along with any temporary orders and notice of hearing if you plan on asking for one. All of this, along with a citation, will need to be filed with the court to begin your case. Your spouse will need to be served personally with notice of your having filed for divorce so you should be prepared to hire a private process server or constable to pick up the papers from the courthouse. Once your spouse is served you will need to have the process server return the proof of service to the courthouse so there is an official record of him or her having been served. Once you complete these steps your divorce has officially begun. The ball is in your spouse's court to respond.

What does your spouse do when you are trying to divorce him or her?

Let's jump over to your spouse's side of the fence and think about what he or she may be doing at a time like this. You've filed for divorce. You have served him with divorce papers. He is holding those papers in his hands. When he hurriedly reads the papers, he looks up and then does what? That is the question that we are going to try and answer today. What does your spouse do at that time and what is the deadline or schedule that he has to do it by? Here is a window into your spouse's situation. 

First, your spouse must file an Answer to your Original Petition for Divorce. The Answer should be filed within 20 days (approximately) of having been served with the Original Petition. If your spouse does not file their Original Petition within those approximately 20 days after having been served, he is in default. Being in default puts your spouse in danger of you presenting your final orders (contained in a Final Decree of Divorce) to a judge and then having the judge grant those orders without your spouse having any say in the process. He can be shut out if he refuses to participate. This means that it is in his best interests to participate in the divorce even if it is not his idea to get divorced or even if he does not want to get divorced. 

Let’s assume, on the other hand, that you and your spouse have talked about getting divorced. You all have read the writing on the wall and know that a problem exists in the marriage. Assuming that the problem in the marriage is not something that can be solved you all may have even discussed the details of your case. If you agree on getting divorced, then you may also agree on the main issues of your case. If this is the case then the process we went over regarding the service of the petition, etc. may not be necessary. 

In that case, your spouse could sign a Waiver of Service which will waive their right to be served personally with the divorce petition. The Waiver must be signed in front of a notary. The waiver can be returned to you and you will file it with the court. By signing the Waiver, you all can get a jump start in negotiating your way through the divorce process. Much of the time Waivers are relevant in cases where you and your spouse are engaged in an uncontested divorce. 

You and your spouse will determine the course of your divorce largely based on your conduct and attitude toward one another. If you all are willing to set aside your differences and negotiate in a way that is intended to complete your divorce efficiently, arrive at fair outcomes, and do what is best for your children (if you have kids) then your divorce may more cordial and civil than you ever would have planned. It almost certainly will not be the kind of divorce where you and your spouse fight the entire time.

If you are concerned about the costs of a divorce, then you should pay close attention to how you negotiate your case and how you conduct yourself around your spouse. The more complex your divorce is the more complicated the negotiations can be. However, if you and your spouse are committed to negotiating your case with respect towards one another then almost certainly your case will be less expensive than a case where you and your spouse are petty and make life difficult for one another. 

Going to court is what makes a typical divorce become an expensive divorce. When you and your spouse cannot agree on basic issues then you will need to resort to going to court to have a judge play a tiebreaker. In that case, you are losing time and money that you will never be able to get back. Hiring an attorney means paying him or her by the hour. The travel time, courtroom time, and everything else associated with the courthouse experience cost money. That's not to mention all the time spent in preparation for your attorney. 

Keep this in mind when you hear horror stories about divorce. Not every divorce has to be an experience worth re-telling repeatedly. You can think of your divorce like an uneventful trip to the dentist: nobody likes going to the dentist but then again, we all do things that are not fun yet are necessary. If you get your teeth cleaned and have no cavities, then it is an uneventful trip. You won’t come home with stories to tell your family about the uneventful trip to the dentist.

On the other hand, if you have a strange experience with the dentist then that is when the stories start to come out. A boring experience equals no stories being told. An exciting or terrible experience equals storytime. Do not underestimate the interest that other people have in bad news. For some reason, we as humans love to retell bad experiences that we have had. This does not have to be you, however. You can choose to engage civilly with your spouse in negotiation and make your divorce as boring as possible. 

Final thoughts on getting divorced in Texas

We hope that you have learned something from today's blog post as far as the basics of getting divorced in Texas. The entire process can be made much simpler by hiring an attorney. you can and should investigate your options when it comes to finding a lawyer who suits the needs of your family and is within your budget. It is a myth to consider that family law attorneys are all overly expensive and only in practice to make money. The attorneys with our office pride ourselves on working alongside clients to achieve favorable outcomes both inside and outside the courtroom.

When you are working towards a divorce, and it becomes necessary to take the steps necessary to file your case then you should think through your options on representation and where you are going to file your case. If you and your spouse have separated some time ago you may be able to file in the county where you reside or in the county where your spouse resides. 

Even if you are just starting and are thinking about divorce for the first time then you can use your time wisely and walk through your case with an experienced family law attorney. You would be surprised to learn just how helpful having an attorney can be as well as the information that you can learn from listening to an attorney who has helped many people in similar situations as you find yourself in currently.

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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