When a decision has been made to end a marriage, it can be difficult for the people involved and even more difficult when it is not a mutual decision. How long does a divorce take in Texas? That depends on the type of divorce and the circumstances of your family.
The first thing to note about Texas laws is the requirement that one or more of the parties be a resident.
If you want to file for divorce, one of the spouses must have lived in Texas for at least 6 months.
Additionally, one of the spouses must have been a resident of the county where the paperwork is filed for a minimum of 90 days.
What Is the Process of Filing for Divorce in Texas?
State law in Texas is a no-fault law, so you can file for divorce without you or your spouse having done something “wrong” or “at fault.” However, the judges will typically take into consideration fault when determining a fair division of the property. Some fault reasons that can influence the division of assets include:
Abandonment for 1 year or more, with the intent of permanent abandonment;
Incarceration for longer than 3 years.
Suppose you are filing with no one at fault. In that case, the Petition will legally state “insupportability” which just means the reason for the divorce is a conflict of personalities or discord that cannot be reconciled.
Filing the documents
When it comes time to file for divorce, one spouse files what is called an Original Petition for Divorce. The person who files this becomes known as the Petitioner.
That document is then delivered to, legally referred to as, ‘served’ to the other spouse. The other spouse is hereafter referred to as the Respondent.
If your divorce is uncontested and you are in agreement, the Respondent can sign a waiver so that they do not have to be served the papers.
Issuing the restraining order
While most people think of restraining orders as associated with violent partners or stalkers, in the state of Texas, the laws associate a restraining order with assets. At the time of a divorce filing, the Petitioner can request a Temporary Restraining Order.
This prevents any assets from being liquidated or otherwise removed, in effect, it protects any mutual property until it can be divided legally. It also required that both spouses behave in a civil manner without making threats or harassment toward one another, highlighting the original intention of a restraining order.
If you opt for a restraining order, then the court must schedule your hearing within 14 business days. At the hearing, if things are still pending, the judge can convert the restraining order into a Temporary Injunction, preventing both parties from trying to take property until things are properly divided.
Answering the petition
If no restraining order is issued, then the Respondent has 20 days, plus the following Monday, to file their response, legally referred to as the ‘Answer.’ At this time, the judge can decide to enforce a temporary restraining order on their own, which involves temporary custody requirements, visitation, child support, spousal support, or debt repayments.
In the event that things are not being settled in an uncontested fashion, and one party believes the other is hiding something or holding out on them, then the courts move the proceeding into the discovery phase, whereby attorneys and mediators help the spouses exchange documents or information they believe to be useful in determining a fair settlement or in some cases, fair alimony for long term relationships (those over 10 years).
This can also take place when both parties are at odds for child custody and want more information to try and prove the other party is ill-equipped to parent or are similarly trying to find information that would influence visitation rights or child support payments.
It can also take place when one party wants to prove that some of the mutual assets or property was theirs before the marriage and should not be divided evenly. Examples would include a gift or inheritance given to one party or property acquired solely by one spouse with money from their personal account, not from a joint account. In most cases, Texas divides property 50/50 at a divorce.
Once things are agreed upon, the Agreed Decree of Divorce is prepared and signed. The spouses sign it, any attorneys on the case, and the judge.
Mediation and trial
If things are not agreed upon, then the courts will require mediation to aid the process. Should mediation fail, then the case will immediately go to trial. After the trial, when a settlement has been made, the attorneys will present the Final Decree of Divorce, which will include all information on how assets and property are divided. Once the judge signs this, it is binding, and the divorce is settled.
Signing the divorce settlement agreement in Texas by the judge renders it a legally binding document, and thus, the divorce is considered officially settled. This agreement then forms the blueprint for the post-divorce relationship between the ex-spouses, outlining the specifics on asset division, child custody, alimony, and other pertinent details.
How Long Does It Take To Finalize a Divorce in Texas?
Your divorce cannot be finalized for a minimum of 60 days after your original petition is filed. This gives both parties time to answer and come to an agreement. As soon as the final decree of divorce is signed, the divorce is finalized. Assuming it is uncontested, then it can be signed after that 60-day period. If it is contested, and your case moves to trial, it can take 6 months to 1 year, or more, to settle everything.
How long does a divorce take in Texas?
The length of a divorce process in Texas can vary based on multiple factors. Generally, it can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more. Most divorces typically take anywhere between six months to a year, given the number of aspects that need to be addressed, such as property division, child custody, and alimony. If the divorce is contested or if there are other contentious issues, this process can extend to over a year. Therefore, the exact duration varies on a case-by-case basis.
Contested Versus Uncontested
The terms ‘contested’ and ‘uncontested’ refer to the type of divorce you have with your spouse. While Texas does things a bit differently, being in agreement or not in the agreement can impact the length of your divorce proceedings.
Contested refers to a situation where both parties are not in agreement either to the divorce itself or to the terms of the divorce settlement. This can include disagreements about:
Who gets what property, etc.
If you and your spouse are filing for divorce, but there are disagreements, then the timeline is extended. You will likely need to include a lawyer to help you come to an agreement. To help expedite an agreement between you and your soon-to-be-former spouse, you must use mediation.
Mediation is a way to meet with a qualified third party who is there to facilitate communication and help you navigate the trickier parts of the divorce proceedings. If that does not work, things go to trial, which can take months or years to finalize.
If both parties agree, this is considered an uncontested divorce. This means there are no issues about which you have not come to an agreement or arrangement, and there will be no need for the court to get involved beyond a judge signing off on the divorce papers. Uncontested divorces have simple paperwork, including the original petition and the final decree, and then things are finalized.
How long it takes to settle a divorce in Texas varies greatly based on the circumstances. People with more property or assets might have longer divorce proceedings as the courts decide how to divide them equally, just as people with children might have contested issues regarding child care and child support. Consider contacting an attorney if you want to learn more about how long your situation might take in Texas.
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Article by Yevheniia Savchenko
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the minimum time frame for a divorce in Texas?
The shortest time frame for a divorce in Texas is 60 days from the date the petition for divorce is filed until the divorce can legally be finalized. This is a mandatory waiting period set by Texas law, and the court cannot grant a divorce sooner. Keep in mind that this is the minimum duration, and the time could be longer depending on the complexity of the case.
However, this 60-day mark rarely signifies the end of the divorce proceedings. Most of the divorce cases in Texas involve matters like property distribution, child custody, and spousal support, which take longer to resolve. Thus, even though you can technically file for a divorce in Texas and have it finalized in as little as two months, the entire process usually extends beyond this frame.
What factors can prolong the divorce process in Texas?
Many factors can stretch the timeline of a divorce in Texas beyond the 60-day waiting period. One of the primary elements contributing to the duration of the divorce process is whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree to the divorce and the terms of the settlement. Such cases usually conclude more quickly.
By contrast, a contested divorce, where the parties cannot agree upon certain issues like child custody, asset division, alimony, or even the divorce itself, can take a significantly longer time to settle. These disagreements often require mediation or a court trial, which can prolong the process. Additionally, a busy court schedule can also extend the timeline for a divorce in Texas.
How can I expedite the divorce process in Texas?
To expedite the divorce process in Texas, you can pursue an uncontested divorce or a simplified divorce procedure, depending upon your circumstances. An uncontested divorce, where you and your spouse agree on all crucial aspects like child custody, property division, and alimony, can considerably reduce the time frame.
Moreover, if you qualify for it, a simplified divorce procedure, also known as an "agreed divorce" or "waiver divorce," in Texas can speed up the process. This is for couples who are in complete agreement about the divorce and the division of their property.