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 divorce terms, 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 with the court. In Texas, 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 court. 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. 

If you are the Petitioner, 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. 

After you file your petition, the court assumes that you still want to get divorced and moves your case along accordingly. While your petition doesn’t expire, the court 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.

A DWOP means the judge dismisses your case due to a lack of forward movement, such as missing a hearing or a trial.

A Texas court might issue a DWOP if you missed a hearing about your divorce case. The court set aside time for you and your partner to discuss your split, and no one arrived to talk. In a situation like this, the clerk will send you an email or a letter that tells you your case is on the dismissal docket, and a hearing to discuss it will be scheduled.

At the dismissal hearing, the court can determine whether your case should be halted. If the court keeps it open, a new trial date and other deadlines will be set. If you miss those new deadlines once again, your case could be dismissed.

Timeline and deadlines for a Texas divorce petition

Texas laws include a mandatory waiting period, so you can’t finalize your divorce for at least 60 days after you filed the initial paperwork.

At the 60-day mark, the court will set a divorce hearing to move the process forward. If you miss this meeting, the court can issue a DWOP and schedule a hearing.

At this point, the court can set new deadlines and keep your case open. If not, your case is essentially halted unless you reopen it.

Consequences of inaction

What happens if the court determines that your case should be halted? You must take action as quickly as possible to keep your divorce alive.

Start by filing a Motion to Reinstate Case on Docket and Notice of Hearing within 30 days of the judge signing a dismissal order. You must provide compelling reasons to keep the case open, such as an illness or accident that kept you from a hearing. 

If your case is reinstated, you’ll be given new deadlines and procedures to follow.

Get help from Hello Divorce

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.

Frequently asked questions

These are questions we often hear about expiring divorce petitions in Texas:

What are the financial costs of refiling a divorce petition?

If your case is dismissed, you must refile your divorce paperwork and pay the associated fees to start the proceedings all over again. There is no discount for refiling paperwork, so you’ll lose quite a bit of money in this process.

Can a DWOP be contested or appealed?

Once a judge dismisses your case, you can file a motion to reinstate it. However, the court could deny this request and force you to restart the process all over again.

How can you avoid a DWOP?

Take your divorce deadlines seriously, and encourage your partner to do the same. Don’t skip your hearings or blow off finishing paperwork.


Divorce Set 1. (June 2013). Supreme Court of Texas.
Texas Rule 165a: Dismissal for Want of Prosecution. (January 2023). Case Text.
How to Retain or Reinstate a Case Dismissed by the Court. (February 2023).
I Need a Divorce. We Have Children Under 18. (October 2023).


Divorce Specialists
After spending years in toxic and broken family law courts, and seeing that no one wins when “lawyer up,” we knew there was an opportunity to do and be better. We created Hello Divorce to the divorce process easier, affordable, and completely online. Our guiding principles are to make sure both spouses feel heard, supported, and set up for success as they move into their next chapter in life.