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Family Law


February 17, 2022


How To File Divorce in Texas

Texas state law governs divorce in Dallas, TX as well as Fort Worth. But how do you file for divorce in Texas? Before you even begin, you should know the Texas divorce process step by step. Remember- no two divorce cases are exactly alike. Property, family arrangements, and personal priorities all differ from case to case.

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce?

When you first decide to divorce, many questions might flood your mind. How do I file for divorce?  Can I file for divorce online in Texas? Do I need a lawyer for a divorce? The short answers to these questions are “It’s complicated”, some Texas courts allow this, and yes, a lawyer is a practical necessity in most cases. 

Texas does not absolutely require you to hire a family law attorney attorney for a divorce. Nevertheless, you are probably going to need a lawyer unless:

  • The divorce is completely uncontested;
  • You have no children from the marriage; and
  • Neither one of you accumulated a significant amount of property during the marriage.

You definitely should hire a lawyer under the following circumstances:

  • Your spouse has hired a lawyer;
  • You have any contested issues such as property division, child custody, child support, or alimony;
  • Your marriage involves any issues or allegations of domestic violence including false allegations;
  • Either one of you owns significant wealth, especially if you acquired it during the marriage;
  • Either one of you owes significant debts, especially if these debts originated during the marriage;
  • Either one of you wants alimony;
  • Either one of you has filed for bankruptcy or plans to do so;
  • You have a special needs child born during the marriage; or
  • Texas law does not legally recognize you as the legal parent of at least one of the children of the marriage.

There may be other circumstances where you need a lawyer. Under no circumstances should the same lawyer represent both divorcing spouses.

spouses divorce

Basic Steps to Getting a Divorce in Dallas, TX

 Following is a list of the basic steps to filing for divorce. Couples do not always follow these steps to divorce unwaveringly, because Texas courts encourage reconciliation even after the filing of a divorce. 

1. Grounds for Divorce

Texas recognizes two types of divorces–no-fault and fault-based.

A no-fault divorce is simple. The sole ground is “insupportability”, which is the functional equivalent of “irreconcilable differences.” It basically means, “I can’t stand being married to my spouse anymore, and I don’t expect that state of affairs will ever change.”

Texas allows many fault-based grounds for divorce, as well as many defenses against these grounds. Some examples of grounds for fault-based divorce include:

  • Adultery;
  • Confinement in a mental hospital (subject to certain conditions);
  • Separation for at least three years;
  • Cruelty, 
  • Felony conviction; and 
  • Abandonment.

If a judge finds you the victim in a fault-based divorce, the terms of the divorce (property division, etc.) are likely to favor you.

2. Filing For Divorce

One important question is “Where do you file for divorce?” The simple answer is. “In the District Clerk's Office at your local county courthouse”, at least in courts that do not allow online filing. Even if they do, you must use their particular website. Either you or your spouse must have lived in the county for at least 90 days.

3. Notifying Your Spouse 

What happens after divorce papers are filed? The next step is to formally notify your spouse, even if they already know your intentions. This is known as the “service of process.”

  • The easiest way is to have your spouse sign a “waiver of service” form, which you file with the county clerk’s office. This method allows you to mail or hand-deliver the service of process form and the divorce petition yourself. 
  • If your spouse does not agree to a waiver of service, you can have the county sheriff personally deliver the papers to your spouse.
  • If the sheriff cannot deliver the divorce papers, you can get the court’s permission to deliver them by mail even if your spouse does not sign a waiver of service. Ask the county clerk to make sure you have filled out all the right papers.
  • The last resort, if you cannot locate your spouse, is to get the court’s permission and publish the divorce notice in a local newspaper. 

Service of the process allows a divorce hearing to occur.


A divorce by default occurs if your spouse completely ignores the service of the process and does not show up at the divorce hearing. In this case, the judge will probably give you most of what you asked for in your divorce petition, subject to certain overriding principles such as the “best interests of the child.” 

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

If your spouse shows up for the hearing, the divorce can still be either contested or uncontested. It is always easier to file for an uncontested divorce than to file for a contested divorce, although one kind can turn into the other kind with shocking rapidity. The court will probably be encouraging you to come to a compromise. 

The way the process works is that after you serve your spouse the divorce petition, they have 60 days to file a written Answer with the court. If the Answer agrees with your conditions for divorce, and if the court does not object to any of its terms, it is an uncontested divorce. If the Answer disagrees with any of your conditions, you have a contested divorce to resolve.

4. The Hearing

If both divorcing spouses and the judge agree with all the terms of the divorce, only the initiating spouse needs to show up at the hearing. If that spouse is you, the judge will ask you a few questions, and you will need to sign some documents. 

If your spouse contests at least one issue in the divorce, at least one adversarial hearing will occur. Both spouses can bring their lawyers, present evidence, call witnesses, and engage in argument. The judge will issue a final written divorce decree.

5. The Final Decree  

The judge will not issue a divorce decree until at least 60 days have passed since one spouse filed for divorce. The divorce decree will provide for all relevant issues (property division, child support, etc.) Since Texas is a community property state, you can expect your assets and liabilities to be divided relatively equally. Some exceptions exist–inheritances typically belong to only one spouse, for example.

divorce papers

How Much Does It Cost to File for Divorce in Dallas?

The cost to file for divorce in Texas includes many factors such as:

  • Attorney’ fees;
  • A (waivable) filing fee of between $250 and $300;
  • Service fees;
  • Copy fees;
  • Divorce mediation, if the court orders it; and
  • Custody evaluation, if the court orders it.

Your divorce will cost the least if it is amicable and the parties agree to the conditions. If the divorce is contested, and the parties cannot agree to amicable terms, the divorce proceedings become more costly because it will require substantially more paperwork to be filed as well as numerous court appearances and hearings. 


Getting a divorce in Dallas, TX is likely to be a traumatic experience, even if it is amicable. If you are seeking a divorce in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, contact Brooks & Radchenko at (903)818-8681, or simply contact us online for a free initial consultation. We have helped many clients in the same position as you. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it take to divorce in Texas?

Technically, Texas law applies a 60-day waiting period to a divorce. This means that theoretically, you could finalize your divorce in as few as 61 days. In reality, however, it typically takes six months to a year to issue a final divorce decree.

How long do you have to be separated before you can file for divorce in Texas? 

Texas applies no absolute separation period for divorce, either in terms of physical separation or legal separation. Nevertheless, since Texas offers fault-based divorce, if you choose that option and select separation as the grounds for your divorce, your separation must last at least three years before you can divorce on this basis.

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