How to File for a Divorce in Houston
Deciding to file for a divorce can be one of the most difficult decisions that you’ll ever have to make, and unfortunately, the state of Texas doesn’t make the divorce process easy. Texas has a mandatory 60-day waiting period that begins from the date of filing, and there are other restrictions that govern when and where you can file for divorce. Even under the best conditions, divorce can involve disputes over property, custody, support, and logistics. If you and your spouse reside in Houston or anywhere else in the state of Texas, it’s to your benefit to retain a competent and effective family law and divorce attorney.
Texas Divorce Requirements
Before you file for a divorce, you may want to familiarize yourself with the state’s requirements:
- Petitioner vs. Respondent – One spouse must be the petitioner. In a no-fault divorce, it can be either party.
- Waiting Period – Texas has a 60-day mandatory waiting period. The clock starts the day that the original petition is filed through the court.
- State Residency Requirement – In order to file for divorce in Texas, one of both spouses must have resided in the state for a period of six months.
- County Residency Requirement – One of the parties to the divorce must have resided in the county where the original petition is filed for at least 90 days.
Conceivably, you could get a divorce in 60 days, but if you just moved from another state, you will need to wait until you’ve been here for six months unless your spouse already lives here. Furthermore, if you moved from one county to another, you’ll have to wait an additional 90 days. Most divorces that are filed in the Houston area are sufficiently complicated that negotiations over assets, children, and support delay them, as well. Realistically, your divorce could take six months to a year before it’s finalized.
Steps in the Divorce Process
Filing for divorce in Houston is a multi-tiered process, even if both spouses can agree on terms.
- The petitioner files the paperwork with a Houston-area family court.
- If the spouses have discussed the divorce, the respondent can sign a waiver prior to filing. Otherwise, the petitioner will have to serve the responded with paperwork.
- The petitioner can request a restraining order, in which case there will be a hearing after 14 days.
- If no restraining order is issued, the respondent has 20 days to file what’s referred to as an “answer.”
- The spouses then exchange information in the discovery phase where they will request and provide various documents.
- The spouses and their attorneys will negotiate a settlement and one of the lawyers will provide an Agreed Decree of Divorce (divorce decree.)
- If they can’t come to an agreement, the spouses will enter mediation. This is required before a divorce can go to trial.
- If mediation fails, the divorce goes to trial.
- Whether the spouses agree from the onset, have to enter mediation, or even go to trial, one of the divorce lawyers will ultimately prepare a Final Decree of Divorce.
Why You Need a Divorce Lawyer
Many individuals think that hiring a divorce lawyer will create animosity with the other spouse. While it’s impossible to always predict the reactions of others during emotionally trying times, retaining the services of a professional divorce lawyer can save you time, money, and emotional turmoil.
A family law attorney has specific knowledge of the laws, is familiar with the Houston-area divorce court procedures, and has experience negotiating reasonable settlements with other spouses’ lawyers. By using a divorce lawyer, it removes you from direct contact with the other party while the two of you are trying to navigate your way through the process. It’s also helpful to have a professional who knows what you’re entitled to under the law.
Professional Divorce Lawyer for Houston Residents
The laws regarding dissolution of marriage in the state of Texas are complex even under the easiest of conditions. If you have children, property, pets, or intangible assets, you owe it to yourself to take the time to make sure that your divorce is done properly. You’re going to have to wait months before you’re through with the divorce process, so you should make good use of your time.
To schedule an appointment with a dedicated divorce and family law attorney, call the Law Office of Scott D. Reiner.