city
Brooks and Radchenko Law Firm

Family Law

Updated:

October 4, 2022

WRITTEN BY:

How to File for Divorce in Texas Without a Lawyer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_hqus0YJOY

Texas state law governs divorce in Dallas, Fort Worth, and throughout the state of Texas. If you don’t have a lawyer handling paperwork and logistics for you, how do you file for divorce in Texas? Before you begin, you should take time to review the Texas divorce process step by step, so that you understand what you’re signing up for.

Remember- no two divorce cases are exactly alike, and what worked for a friend or relative may not be practical or relevant to your situation. Property, family arrangements, and personal priorities all differ from case to case.

No one gets married planning to get divorced. However, when the realization is made that divorce is necessary, it’s common to want to make it happen for the lowest expense and the least conflict for all. Although it’s natural to assume that getting divorced without a divorce attorney is the best outcome, this is not always the case. There are many divorces where individuals absolutely need a lawyer to reach a fair outcome.

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce?

Filing for divorce in Texas without a lawyer, sometimes called a DIY divorce, is effective only when both sides are committed to a mutual dissolution. Of course, there are situations where a divorcing couple cannot agree on anything and other situations where important points are contested, such as the date of separation. Sometimes, a spouse refuses to play by the rules. In these situations, filing for divorce without a lawyer is not recommended.

A common scenario where you don’t need a lawyer to file for divorce is a relationship meeting three criteria:

  • The divorcing couple does not dispute the division of property.
  • The divorcing couple has little to no valuable assets that need to be divided.
  • The divorcing couple does not have children.

The criteria above are not set by law, and couples with children and high-value assets may proceed with a divorce without a divorce attorney. However, it is often easiest to navigate the divorce process when there are no minor children and child support issues to work out. You should not proceed with a divorce without an attorney if you feel unsafe or are the victim of domestic violence.

Basic Steps to Getting a Divorce in Dallas, TX

Divorce in Dallas

1. Grounds for Divorce

Texas recognizes two types of divorces – no fault divorce 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 no longer be married to my spouse, 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. If you have grounds for a fault-based divorce in your situation, talk to a lawyer about your options and the advantages of doing so.

2. Meet the Texas Residency Requirements

Uncontested divorces and contested divorces have the same residency requirements. To be eligible to file for divorce in Texas, you must have:

  1. Lived in the county where you are filing for at least the last 90 days.
  2. Lived in the state of Texas for at least the last six months.

3. File Your Original Petition for Divorce

Your divorce is truly started when you file your Original Petition 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”, as determined by evaluating the residency requirements. Some counties allow online divorce filing (e-filing), and some do not. Even if they do, you must use their particular website and follow their rules. As mentioned above, either you or your spouse must have lived in the county where you are filing for at least 90 days.

4. Notifying Your Spouse

how to file for divorce without a lawyer

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.” You may have seen people “get served” in the movies - real life doesn’t have to be dramatic (especially if you’re doing a do it yourself divorce):

  • The simplest 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. Your spouse will have to provide a Respondent’s Original Answer if they do not sign a Waiver of Service.
  • 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, even with an online divorce filing.

Default

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.

5. Complete the Final Decree of Divorce Form

The true test of an uncontested divorce is your spouse coming through and signing off on the Final Decree of Divorce. This document will address 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.

6. Wait 60 Days

can i file for divorce without a lawyer

Many states have a waiting period, and Texas is no exception. In Texas, you must wait 60 days after filing for divorce before your divorce can be finalized and the judge officially grants your divorce. This 60-day clock starts the day after you file for divorce.  Exceptions to the 60-day waiting period (where a divorce may be granted immediately by a judge) include:

  • If you have an active protection order against your spouse or an active magistrate’s order for emergency protection.
  • If your spouse was convicted (or received deferred adjudication order) for a crime involving family violence.

7. Go to Court

After the 60-day waiting period has passed, you can go to court and finalize the terms of your divorce. If you and your divorcing spouse (and the judge) agree with all the terms of the divorce and the information provided in your divorce forms, only the initiating spouse needs to show up at the hearing. If that spouse is you, the judge will ask you to attest to a few basic facts of your marriage and divorce, and you will need to sign some documents. It should go without saying, but you must be truthful. Lying or misrepresenting your divorce to the judge is a crime.

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 arguments. The judge will issue a final written divorce decree.

8. File Your Final Decree of Divorce with Judge’s Signature

The last step is to officially file your documents with the court clerk. These include at a minimum:

  • Original Petition for Divorce.
  • Respondent’s Original Answer OR Waiver of Service.
  • Final Decree of Divorce, signed by the judge.

There may be additional documents if you have minor children. Once your documents are filed, your divorce is official! Congratulations on completing the process.

How Long Does It Take to File for Divorce in Texas?

Your divorce process will take at least two months (remember that 60-day waiting period) unless it is eligible for a waiver due to a domestic violence situation - either you have a protection order or your spouse has been convicted of a crime involving domestic violence in the marriage.

Most Texas divorce attorneys will tell you that a typical time for a divorce to be finalized is four to six months, with a year being not uncommon. If a wife is pregnant, the courts will wait until the baby is born to resolve issues of child custody and child support.

How to File for Divorce in Texas Online?

filing for divorce without a lawyer

It is always easier when things can be handled remotely. However, each county in Texas has its own rules that you must follow. Whether or not you can pursue an online divorce filing will depend on the county. In Dallas County, Texas, you can e-file an Uncontested Divorce Without Children.

You can complete the questions in the e-file Texas self-help portal to determine if you can file online and start preparing for your divorce. If your divorce is contested, it’s always best to speak with a lawyer before e-filing for a divorce. If your divorce starts uncontested but then becomes contested (this is unfortunately common), you may choose to hire a lawyer at any point.

When Should I Avoid Filing for Divorce in Texas Without a Lawyer?

Texas does not require you to hire a family law 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.
  • Neither you nor your spouse accumulated a significant amount of property during the marriage.

In many cases, hiring a lawyer is a necessary thing to protect your own interests (even if you would prefer not to). You definitely should seriously consider hiring a Texas divorce lawyer if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • Your spouse has retained their lawyer;
  • You have any contested issues such as date of separation, property division, child custody arrangements, child support, or alimony;
  • Your marriage involves any issues or allegations of domestic violence (including false allegations of domestic violence);
  • 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 your 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;
  • 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 and you are well-advised to consult with a lawyer about your situation early on in the divorce process. Under no circumstances should the same lawyer represent both divorcing spouses.

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

how to file for a divorce without a lawyer

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;
  • 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.

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?

You don’t have to be separated. 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.

Conclusion

Getting a divorce in Dallas, TX can be a difficult process, even if it is uncontested, amicable, and mutual, and the terms of the split are simple. Although some couples are able to divorce without attorney representation, a lawyer may be able to ultimately save you money, and make the process less stressful. If you are seeking a divorce in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, contact Brooks & Radchenko at (903) 945-4272, or simply contact us online for a free initial consultation. We have helped many clients in the same position as you.

Contact Us Today For a Free Consultation

Brooks & Radchenko attorneys are ready to help you with any difficult life situation.

Get a free consultation!

Related Posts

Close

This website is legal advertising material

It does not provide legal advice. The scenarios described in this website are intended to demonstrate legal principles involved with representation in the type of case described. Any current or former clients quoted or specifically identified in these materials have reviewed the firm on a third-party website or platform, such as Google, without compensation. Every legal case is different. Specific past results are not indicative of specific future results. Any information contained herein pertaining to experience or familiarity with particular courts or government agencies should not be construed as an ability or willingness to exert improper influence over the legal system. All services described in these materials and provided by Radchenko and
Brooks, LLC, and its attorneys, are only performed in compliance with all applicable laws and the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct.