Does a Divorce Petition Expire in Texas?

A divorce petition is a signed and dated document that begins your divorce process. In theory, it never expires. But your divorce could grind to a halt, and if it does, you could be forced to start the entire process again.

Texas laws require couples to exchange paperwork, resolve differences related to their marital settlement agreement, and finalize their divorce in court. If you skip a court appearance, a judge could toss out your case for lack of progress. In such a scenario, while your petition didn't technically expire, your plans to end your marriage did. 

What is a divorce petition in Texas?

Divorces are lawsuits originated by one party (the Petitioner) via paperwork filed in a Texas courthouse. The detailed document you fill out, sign, and bring to the courthouse to start the process is called your Original Petition for Divorce

In this document, you outline several details, including the following:

  • Who you are 
  • Who your spouse is 
  • Where you live 
  • Whether your spouse will work with you on an uncontested divorce
  • How many children the two of you have
  • What property you own outside of the marriage

To finish your divorce, you must fill out and sign other documents. That official paperwork will be reviewed and signed during a final hearing. 

The Original Petition for Divorce is a little like an invitation to your spouse and the courts. You’re notifying both parties that you want to end your legal marriage in Texas. And you agree to work through the divorce process in a timely manner. 

How does a divorce petition work in Texas?

One person (the Petitioner) starts the divorce process by filling out, signing, and filing the Original Petition for Divorce document. 

You'll pay a filing fee when you file your Original Petition for Divorce. The clerk will stamp your paperwork, give you a case number, and log your request into the state's legal system. In some courthouses, you're given a divorce hearing date when you file your documents. 

Filing an Original Petition for Divorce is a big step, as you're launching a legal process within the state of Texas. You can't change your mind and suddenly make the case go away. If you decide you don’t want a divorce, you must return to the courthouse and drop your case. 

After you file your petition, the court assumes that you still want to get divorced and will move your case along accordingly. While your petition doesn’t expire, the courts will expect you to stick to your commitments. 

What factors can make a divorce petition expire? 

Your divorce petition will never "expire," per se, but forward movement on your divorce can stall. Per Texas laws, courts can issue a Dismissal for Want of Prosecution (DWOP) that halts your divorce and renders your petition null and void. 

Texas divorces require court hearings. Your divorce can move forward if only one of you goes to court. The judge can rule for both of you, even if one doesn't show up as a form of protest.

But if neither one of you appears in court, and the court gives you ample notice of the hearing's date and time, the judge can issue a DWOP. The courts can give you 30 days to reopen your case and argue for your divorce. Paperwork mailed to your home tells you how to do that. 

But if you don't act, your divorce is essentially halted. If you want to end your marriage, you must file paperwork again.

At Hello Divorce, we're highly familiar with Texas divorce laws, and we provide a menu of online divorce plans and services to help you complete your divorce with as little stress and cost as possible. 

You can learn more about what we offer by scheduling a free 15-minute phone call here.



Divorce Set 1. (June 2013). Supreme Court of Texas.
Texas Rule 165a: Dismissal for Want of Prosecution. (January 2023). Case Text.