Online Divorce In Texas
Qualifying for a Divorce in Texas
Before you can move with a divorce in Texas, there are specific initial qualifications you need to meet, governed by the Texas Family Code. These are related to residency and the grounds for divorce.
A. Residency Requirement
According to the Texas Family Code Section 6.301, at least one spouse must have been a state resident for a continuous six-month period and a county resident where the divorce is filed for the preceding 90-day period.
If you recently moved to Texas, you will need to wait until you meet these residency requirements before filing for divorce. However, if your spouse lives in Texas and meets these requirements, you can file for divorce even while living in another state or country.
B. Grounds for Divorce
The State of Texas recognizes both “fault” and “no-fault” grounds for divorce. “No fault” means that neither party is officially blamed for the dissolution of the marriage. On the other hand, in a “fault” divorce, one party is deemed responsible for the failure of the marriage based on a set of accepted grounds. The following are the grounds for divorce recognized by the Texas Family Code (Section 6.001 – 6.007):
- Insupportability (No-Fault): This is the most commonly cited reason for divorce and is defined by the Texas Family Code Section 6.001. It is often referred to as “irreconcilable differences” in other states. Essentially, the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
- Cruelty (Fault): According to the Texas Family Code Section 6.002, this ground can be used if one spouse is guilty of cruel treatment towards the other to the extent that living together is no longer endurable.
- Adultery (Fault): This ground is covered in Texas Family Code Section 6.003 and can be cited if one spouse has been unfaithful to the other.
- Conviction of Felony (Fault): Under Texas Family Code Section 6.004, if during the marriage, a spouse has been convicted of a felony, has been incarcerated for at least a year, and has not been pardoned, the other spouse has grounds to file for a divorce.
- Abandonment (Fault): Texas Family Code Section 6.005 defines this as one spouse has left the other with the intention of abandonment and remaining away for at least one year.
- Living Apart (No-Fault): According to Texas Family Code Section 6.006, if the spouses have lived apart without cohabitation for at least three years, either spouse has grounds to file for a divorce.
- Confinement in Mental Hospital (Fault): As per Texas Family Code Section 6.007, if a spouse has been confined in a state or private mental hospital for at least three years and it appears that the mental disorder is of such a degree and nature that adjustment is unlikely or that, if an adjustment occurs, relapse is probable, the other spouse has grounds for divorce.
Understanding these grounds is essential because they can potentially impact the proceedings, especially if you are filing on fault grounds. This could influence decisions related to property division, spousal support, and child custody, making it a critical aspect of the divorce process to consider.
Every divorce case is unique, and navigating these processes can be complicated. Understanding these requirements and grounds is crucial as you begin your divorce proceedings.
Understanding No-Fault Divorce vs. Fault-Based Divorce in Texas
The State of Texas allows for both “no-fault” and “fault” divorces, each with unique characteristics and implications. Understanding the difference between these two types of divorce is crucial for anyone preparing to navigate a divorce in Texas without an attorney.
A. No-Fault Divorce
A no-fault divorce is when the spouse filing for divorce does not need to prove any fault on the other spouse’s part. The petitioner needs to state that the marriage has become “insupportable” due to a conflict of personalities that prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
In Texas, a no-fault divorce is often sought under “insupportability,” defined by the Texas Family Code Section 6.001, or “living apart,” as per Texas Family Code Section 6.006.
The benefits of a no-fault divorce include:
- Privacy: Since you are not required to air your marital issues in a public courtroom, a no-fault divorce can be more private and less stressful.
- Simplicity: No-fault divorces can be more straightforward as you are not required to prove wrongdoing or fault.
- Less animosity: As no blame is placed on either party, a no-fault divorce can be less aggressive, which can be particularly important when children are involved.
B. Fault-Based Divorce
In contrast, a fault-based divorce occurs when one spouse claims and proves that the other spouse’s wrongful conduct led to the marriage breakdown. The grounds for a fault divorce in Texas include adultery, cruelty, felony conviction, abandonment, and confinement in a mental hospital, as outlined in Texas Family Code Sections 6.002 – 6.007.
Advantages of a fault-based divorce might include:
- Potential Influence on Settlements: A spouse who can prove the other’s fault might have an advantage in situations like property division or spousal support. For example, a spouse demonstrating the other’s infidelity might receive more community property.
- Satisfaction: Some individuals must express their grievances or validate their experiences by establishing the other spouse’s fault in the marriage breakdown.
However, a fault-based divorce can also have its drawbacks, such as:
- More complex and contentious: The need to prove fault can make the divorce process more adversarial, longer, and potentially more expensive due to extra court and legal fees.
- Public exposure: In a fault-based divorce, the details of your marriage and the reasons for its breakdown become a matter of public record.
Choosing between a no-fault and a fault divorce can be a significant decision. It requires careful consideration of your unique circumstances, an understanding of Texas law, and sometimes guidance from legal professionals or counselors. Remember, the decision can significantly affect various divorce proceedings, including property division and custody arrangements.
Step-by-step process to filing for divorce in Texas
- Meet the Residency Requirement: Before filing for divorce in Texas, you or your spouse must have lived in Texas for at least six months and in the county where you plan to file for at least the past 90 days.
- Decide on the Type of Divorce: Determine if you’re filing for a no-fault divorce (neither party is to blame) or a fault-based divorce (one party is at fault due to reasons like adultery, cruelty, abandonment, felony, or living apart for at least three years).
- Prepare the Petition for Divorce: The Petition for Divorce is the official document that asks the court to end your marriage. You can find the necessary forms online or at your local county clerk’s office. Fill out the forms completely and accurately.
- File the Petition: Take the completed Petition for Divorce to the county clerk’s office where you live. You will need to pay a filing fee. If you can’t afford the fee, request the waiver form.
- Serve the Papers: After you have filed the petition, your spouse must be officially notified of the divorce proceedings. This is typically done by a process server or sheriff, who will deliver the documents to your spouse.
- Wait for a Response: Your spouse has 20 days plus the following Monday to file an answer to your petition. If they don’t respond, you may be able to proceed with the divorce by default, which means the court may grant your requests without your spouse’s input.
- Negotiate Terms: If your spouse does respond, you will need to negotiate the divorce terms, including property division, child custody, child support, and possibly spousal maintenance.
- Attend Court Hearings: If you and your spouse can’t agree on the divorce terms, you may need to attend mediation or court hearings. You’ll present your case, and the judge will decide.
- Finalize the Divorce: Once all issues have been addressed and you and your spouse agree to the terms (or a judge has made a decision), the court will issue a Final Decree of Divorce. This document officially ends your marriage and outlines the terms of the divorce.
- Follow Through: After the divorce is finalized, update any relevant documents, like wills or insurance policies, and carry out any required actions like property transfer or support payments.
Forms Needed To File An Online Divorce In Texas (Free Download)
Texas Divorce Papers Required in Divorce without Children Cases (Free Download)
Form FM-DivA-100 – Original Petition for Divorce —> Download Now
Form PR – GEN – 116 – Civil Case Information Sheet —> Download Now
Form VS – 165 – Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship —> Download Now
Form CB-CFFW-100 -Fee Waiver Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs —> Download Now
Form FM-DivAD-103 – Waiver of Service Only —> Download Now
Form FM-DivAD-102 – Respondent’s Original Answer —> Download Now
Form FM-DivA-201 – Final Decree of Divorce —> Download Now
Form FM-DivA-700-Test – Sample Testimony for Opposite-Sex Divorce without Children —> Download Now
FM-DivA-600 – Affidavit for Prove-Up of Agreed Divorce Without Children —> Download Now
Form FM-NC-215 – Order Restoring Name Used Before Marriage —> Download Now
Texas Divorce Papers Required in Divorce with Children Cases (Free Download)
Form FM-DivB-100 – Original Petition for Divorce —> Download Now
Form PR-Gen-116 -Civil Case Information Sheet —> Download Now
Form CB-CFFW-100 – Fee Waiver Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs —> Download Now
Form VS-165 – Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship —> Download Now
Form FP-OSP-302 – Exhibit: Out-of-State Party Declaration —> Download Now
Form FM-Div-Disc-101 – Required Initial Disclosures in Divorces —> Download Now
Form FM-DivB-103 – Waiver of Service Only —> Download Now
Form FM-DivB-102 – Respondent’s Original Answer —> Download Now
Form FM-DivB-201 – Final Decree of Divorce —> Download Now
Form FM-IW-200 – Income Withholding for Support —> Download Now
Form FM-DivB-Test – Sample Testimony for Divorce with Children —> Download Now
Form FM-DivB-600 – Affidavit for Prove-Up of Agreed Divorce With Children —> Download Now
Form 1828A (ROS/App) – Record of Support Order —> Download Now
Form FM-CS-800 – Low-Income Child Support Guidelines Handout —> Download Now
Complete The Form & Get Free Texas Divorce Packet
Division of Property and Debt In Texas
The division of property and debt is often one of the most complex aspects of a divorce. Texas is a community property state, which has specific implications for how assets and debts are divided in a divorce.
A. Understanding Community Property vs. Separate Property
Texas Family Code (Section 7.002) outlines the state’s approach to property division upon divorce, utilizing the principles of community property and separate property.
Community property includes most of the property you or your spouse acquired during the marriage, regardless of who earned it or whose name is on the title. I
Community property commonly includes:
- Wages earned by either spouse during the marriage
- Real estate purchased during the marriage, even if only one spouse’s name is on the deed
- Cars or other vehicles bought during the marriage
- Furniture and appliances purchased during the marriage
- Joint bank accounts, retirement accounts, and investment accounts created or contributed to during the marriage
- Debt acquired during the marriage, even if it’s only in one spouse’s name
- Business interests or professional practices started or grown during the marriage
In a divorce, community property is typically divided between the spouses in a way that the court deems “just and right” (typically aiming for an equal division).
Separate property generally includes assets that each spouse owned before the marriage and certain assets acquired during the marriage. These might include:
- Property owned by either spouse before the marriage
- Gifts are given to one spouse during the marriage
- Inheritances received by one spouse before or during the marriage
- Personal injury awards received by one spouse during the marriage (excluding awards for loss of earning capacity)
- Property that both spouses agree in writing is separate property
- Any property purchased with separate property funds, even during the marriage
It’s important to note that sometimes, separate property can become “commingled” with community property, thus challenging to distinguish. For example, suppose you use wages earned during the marriage (community property) to pay for improvements on a house one spouse owned before the marriage (separate property). In that case, the house’s increased value may be considered community property.
Understanding these designations is crucial because they can significantly impact how your property is divided during the divorce.
B. Creating a Property Division Agreement
Once you’ve determined what property is the community and what is separate, you must create a Property Division Agreement. This document lists all your community property and debt and outlines how you and your spouse have agreed to divide it.
Creating this agreement can be complicated, particularly if you have a lot of assets or large debts. Using a mediation service or hiring a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) to help navigate this process may be beneficial. If you and your spouse can agree on the asset division, the court will likely approve your agreement.
C. Managing Debt in a Divorce
Just as property acquired during a marriage is typically considered community property, so are debts. This includes mortgages, credit card debt, car loans, and other financial obligations. According to the Texas Family Code (Section 7.001), the court will divide the community debts along with the community property in a “just and right manner.”
This might not necessarily mean an equal division – the court could consider factors like the disparity in earning power between the spouses, who are taking custody of the children, and who is receiving what property. If a particular debt is assigned to one spouse in the divorce decree, that spouse will be legally responsible.
However, creditors may still seek repayment from either spouse until the debt is paid off, regardless of the terms of the divorce decree. To avoid credit issues, you should pay off any joint debts before the divorce or refinance the debt in the name of the spouse who will be responsible.
Addressing all your debts in your divorce proceedings is crucial to ensure that each party’s responsibilities are clear. If a debt is overlooked, both spouses might still be legally responsible.
The division of property and debt in a divorce can be complicated and contentious. It requires a thorough understanding of Texas community property law and careful negotiation and documentation. Always consult additional resources or seek professional advice if you are still determining any part of this process.
Child Custody and Support in a Divorce
In a divorce involving minor children, custody and child support decisions are among the most critical and often most contentious. Texas law prioritizes the best interests of the child in these matters.
A. Understanding the Types of Custody (Joint, Sole, etc.)
Texas law uses the terms “conservatorship” and “possession and access” instead of “custody” and “visitation.” Generally, conservatorship is the term used to describe a parent’s legal rights and responsibilities.
- Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC): In most cases, courts prefer to award Joint Managing Conservatorship, where both parents share the rights and duties of a parent. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the child’s time is divided equally between the parents. The court will determine a specific schedule for possession and access.
- Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC): In some cases, one parent (the sole managing conservator) has the exclusive right to make certain decisions concerning the child, such as the right to decide the child’s primary residence, education, and health care. The other parent typically has possessory conservatorship, including the right to access and possess the child at specified times.
The court will make conservatorship decisions based on the best interest of the child, taking into account factors such as the child’s preferences, each parent’s ability to care for the child, the current and future emotional and physical needs of the child, and any existing or potential danger or harm to the child.
B. Creating a Plan for Parenting
A parenting plan outlines how the parents will continue to care for and provide for their children after the divorce. It includes information about conservatorship, possession and access, child support, and how the parents will make future decisions concerning the child. According to the Texas Family Code (Section 153.601), a parenting plan should always prioritize the child’s best interest.
The plan should address the following:
- A schedule detailing when the child will be with each parent, including holidays, birthdays, and school vacations
- Guidelines for communication between parents
- How decisions about the child’s education, health care, and well-being will be made
- How disputes between parents will be resolved
C. Determining Child Support According to Texas Law
In Texas, child support is often based on the guidelines outlined in the Texas Family Code (Sections 154.125 and 154.129). Generally, the noncustodial parent is responsible for paying child support to the custodial parent.
The amount of child support in Texas is calculated as a percentage of the noncustodial parent’s net resources (income after taxes and certain deductions). The rate varies depending on the number of children:
- One child: 20% of the noncustodial parent’s income
- Two children: 25%
- Three children: 30%
- Four children: 35%
- 5+ children: not less than 40%
Here’s an example: If the noncustodial parent’s monthly net resources are $3,000 and there are two children to support, the monthly child support payment would be 25% of $3,000, or $750.
It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and the court has the discretion to order amounts that vary from these guidelines based on the child’s best interest. Additionally, the court can consider other factors, such as the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay, the age and needs of the child, and any financial resources available to support the child.
D. Free Texas Child Support Calculation Form
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Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
In Texas, spousal maintenance, often known as alimony, is not a given in every divorce. It is meant to provide temporary, rehabilitative support for a spouse who may not have the financial means to meet their minimum basic needs.
A. Understanding When Spousal Maintenance Is Applicable
According to the Texas Family Code (Section 8.051), a court may order spousal maintenance if the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to provide for their minimum reasonable needs and one of the following situations is met:
- The spouse cannot earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs due to a physical or mental disability.
- The marriage lasts ten years or longer, and the spouse seeking maintenance cannot earn sufficient income to meet their minimum reasonable needs.
- The spouse is the custodian of a child from the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision due to a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income.
- The other spouse has been convicted of a crime of family violence against the spouse seeking maintenance or a child of the marriage.
B. Calculating Potential Alimony According to Texas Law
The Texas Family Code (Section 8.055) outlines the determination of maintenance, which is generally the lesser of $5,000 or 20% of the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income. The length of time the maintenance is awarded varies depending on factors such as the length of the marriage and the ability of the spouse seeking maintenance to independently provide for their minimum reasonable needs.
Here’s an example: If the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income is $10,000, the maintenance would be less than $5,000 or 20% of $10,000 ($2,000), meaning the awarded spousal maintenance would be $2,000.
However, this is merely a guideline. The court can order less maintenance if the spouse seeking maintenance can meet their minimum reasonable needs with less or more if certain factors are present (such as family violence).
Keep in mind that spousal maintenance ends if the spouse receiving it remarries or if either spouse dies. The court can also modify the order if the financial circumstances of either spouse change significantly.
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