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Texas Family Law Courts: Beginning the Divorce Process

In Part Three of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC’s series of blog posts on Family Law Courts in Texas, we discussed the basic and essential knowledge that you should have prior to beginning a divorcecase in our state. If that is information that you believe that you need to learn or just want a refresher on I would highly recommend that you go back and take a look.

Today’s blog will go through some of the mechanics associated with actually filing and proceeding with a divorce case in Texas. With that said, there is no better place to start than the beginning of a divorce. Just how does a divorce case originate?

The beginning stages of a divorce case

The first step in filing for divorce is drafting a document called the Original Petition for Divorce. This is a document that goes through all of the essential information that you must inform the court of such as:

  1. Who you are
  2. Who your spouse is
  3. Who your children are and
  4. The reason (if any) that you are filing for divorce

While the Petition is not long (typically less than five pages in length) it does contain a great deal of essential information. The district clerk for the county that you live in will receive the Petition, assign your case to a particular court and then collect whatever fees are necessary to file your case.


If you file the divorce petition you will be known as the “petitioner”- clever, right?


Since your spouse will be the party who has to respond to your petition he or she will be the “respondent”- again, clever, right? You may be asking yourself how your spouse will come to find out about your wanting a divorce.

Some spouses actually talk about filing for divorce prior to doing so, but the majority do not. It’s an uncomfortable subject (obviously) and many petitioners are not sure how their spouse will react.


It is your responsibility as the petitioner to provide notice to your spouse of your having filed for divorce. If you do not provide notice and then show proof to the court of their having been provided notice your divorce cannot proceed. This can delay your case in the short-term.

If you’ve hired an attorney you may be paying your attorney to do no work since no notice has been provided. In the event that your case sits in the court’s files for an extended period of time with no work having been done on it the judge can make a decision to toss your case out. This is known as a dismissal in court-talk.

How to provide notice to your spouse that you have filed for divorce

There are multiple ways to serve notice to your spouse of your intent to divorce him or her.

Process Server

The most common is service by a court-appointed process server or law enforcement officer. You and your attorney will have hired a process server to collect the Petition from the court once it is filed.

The process server or law enforcement officer then will go out to the location at which you’ve instructed him or her to serve your spouse. Once your spouse is served successfully the process server or law enforcement officer will fill out an affidavit to tell the judge when and where your spouse was served. The affidavit is then returned to the court for filing.

Waiver of Citation

The second most common method of providing notice to your spouse is to not actually serve him or her at all. Many spouses, if there are agreements in place on most all of the issues in your divorce, will waive their right to be personally served with the divorce Petition.

A Waiver of Citation will need to be completed and signed by your spouse and in exchange, you can have your Petition delivered to him or her by yourself or your attorney. This can save money, time and encourage settlement between yourself and your spouse.

Service by Publication

Less common methods of service will need to be approved by the judge after you have shown him or her that multiple attempts at personal service have come up with no results. In that case, a judge may allow you to provide notice to your spouse by publishing notice in a newspaper or other publication in your area.

Alternative Service

Finally, sending the Petition to your spouse at his or her last address via certified mail from the district clerk is another alternative method of service but, again, this is not common and can be difficult to have a court approve absent many, many failed attempts at personal service.

Once your spouse is served what happens next?

Suppose, then, that you were successful your first attempt to providing your spouse notice of your having filed an Original Petition for Divorce. In that case, the clock begins to tick for him or her- your responsibility to do anything in the immediate future goes away.

Your spouse now has a specific deadline in which to file an Original Answer to your Original Petition for Divorce. The deadline in Texas is the first Monday at 10:00 after twenty days have expired since your spouse was served.

This sounds complex but for our purposes, you just need to remember that your spouse will have at least twenty days to file an Answer.

If he or she does not meet this deadline, you have the chance to get a default judgment against him or her. This means you can come up with your own order, draft it, sign it and file it. Once sixty days has elapsed since your having filed the divorce you can show up to court with your paperwork and get a divorce without your spouse ever having made an appearance or filed an Answer.

Temporary Orders- The middle stages of a divorce

Tomorrow’s blog post will look into what occurs during the middle stages of a divorce- otherwise known as the Temporary Orders phase.

If you have any questions about the initial stages of a divorce or any other matter related to family law please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. A licensed family law attorney is standing by to meet with you six days a week in a free of charge consultation.


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Other Articles you may be interested on regarding Houston Court Local Rules:

  1. Texas Family Law Courts: Divorce essentials
  2. Texas Family Law Courts: Mediation and Divorce Essentials
  3. Texas Family Law Courts: What to Expect
  4. Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 245TH Judicial District Local Rules
  5. 247TH Judicial District Local Rules
  6. 246TH Judicial District Local Rules
  7. Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 308TH Judicial District Local Rules
  8. Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 257TH Judicial District Local Rules
  9. Why is Separate Property Important and How to Keep it Separate in a Texas Divorce?
  10. What Wikipedia Can’t Tell you About Texas Divorce and Marital Property Division
  11. Texas Divorce Property Division Enforcement
  12. Separate Property in a Texas Divorce?
  13. Does it Matter Whose Name is on Title or Deed of Property in a Divorce in Texas?
  14. Is Social Security Considered Separate Property in a Texas Divorce

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.


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