The Ultimate Texas Divorce Checklist
- Why a divorce checklist is helpful
- Personal information
- Marital property
- Legal documents and forms
- Special considerations
If you’re getting a divorce in Texas, an effective divorce checklist can help lighten your load. With a clear list in hand, you can streamline the process and lessen your stress because you know you’re thoroughly prepared for every step of the divorce process.
Before you start divorce proceedings, it’s a good idea to determine whether you and your spouse agree on most terms and are able to file an uncontested divorce. For most couples, this is ideal because it costs far less money and time. However, in some cases, couples cannot agree, and a contested (and more contentious) divorce is the only path forward.
What to consider when preparing for divorce
In most cases, the best choice for a couple’s emotional and financial health is to take advantage of mediation and work toward an amicable split agreement without involving expensive lawyers and the courts.
To determine whether or not that will be possible, it’s a good idea to sit down with your spouse and discuss the following issues:
Property division and division of assets
Determine who will get what and how large assets, like homes and savings, will be split between you. Even if you don’t immediately agree, use these questions as a starting point for your talk:
- If you own a house, will it be necessary to sell it? Will one party buy out the other and stay in the house?
- If you have savings, how will that money be divided?
- If you have invested in nice furniture, expensive cars, or art, who will get each item? Should you sell it and split the proceeds?
Allocation of responsibility for debt
If debt is held by either spouse, it’s important to discuss who is responsible for it. An equitable division of debt is not necessarily an equal division of debt.
If there are hefty school loans for one spouse but not the other, one party may be responsible for their own cost of education, depending on any agreements made during the marriage. Similarly, credit card debt, car loans, and mortgages may be split equally among the two parties, or each person may pay a percentage based on their income.
Though it is impossible to address all potential challenges, it’s a good idea to talk through how you expect child custody to play out. Consider these questions
- With whom will the child live primarily? Will there be a 50/50 split, or will one parent see the child primarily on weekends?
- Will this change once the child enters school if they are an infant or toddler?
- Will it change if one spouse’s work schedule becomes more demanding?
- Is it okay for one parent to make a decision about the child’s education, medical care, or extracurricular activities without talking to the other parent?
Does one spouse make more money than the other? Did one spouse support the other spouse while they went to school or worked their way up in their job? If so, it’s a good idea to determine whether spousal support would be appropriate. If it is, try to determine the amount, the duration, and what financial circumstances could lead to a change in those payments.
Child support is generally determined based on the notion that the child should benefit from the same level of care in both houses. To that end, if one parent makes significantly less money than the other and is unable to maintain the same standard of living, it may be ordered that the parent with a higher income makes child support payments.
It may be possible to come to an agreement on child support without involving the court, particularly if you have the help of a mediator.
If you share a pet with your spouse, discuss where that pet will live and if there will be a visitation schedule similar to a child custody agreement.
Uncontested or contested divorce
Once you and your spouse have determined how close you can get to an agreement on these issues, it will likely be clear whether you will be pursuing a contested or uncontested divorce.
A contested divorce may involve contentious negotiations over issues like child custody, property division, and spousal support between you and your spouse.
An uncontested divorce means you and your spouse have come to an agreement on all major aspects of the separation agreement and are prepared to file for divorce on your own.
If you are able to sit down with your ex and talk about the above issues, it’s likely that you may be able to continue with an uncontested divorce, which is a much easier and less stressful process.
Why is a Texas divorce checklist important?
An effective Texas divorce checklist helps pave the way to an easier, less stressful, and well-prepared divorce process. It serves as a roadmap, helping you avoid delays while decreasing emotional strain.
This checklist ensures compliance with Texas divorce laws, minimizing legal complications. Additionally, it assists you in gathering critical financial information that will help you hit required deadlines and avoid delays.
A Texas divorce checklist can also help facilitate clear communication with the professionals you may work with, such as a divorce mediator.
Personal information needed for divorce
As part of your preparation, you should gather essential personal documents. While these will depend on your unique situation, here is a starter list:
- Identification documents such as your driver's license, passport, and Social Security card
- A certified copy of the marriage certificate
- Financial records such as bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, and credit card statements
- Property documentation such as deeds, mortgage statements, and property valuation reports
- Insurance policies, which include health, life, auto, and property insurance documents
- Retirement account statements
- Details of mortgages, loans, credit cards, and other liabilities
- Financial statements and tax returns for any businesses
- Children's information, such as their birth certificates, Social Security numbers, medical records, and school records
Marital property and divorce in Texas
Texas follows a community property model in which all assets acquired during marriage are considered community property and subject to equitable division between both spouses.
Separate property, such as assets owned prior to marriage or acquired through gifts or inheritance, typically remain with the original owner after marriage unless otherwise agreed upon.
The court strives for an equitable division based on factors like each spouse's contribution to the acquisition of marital assets and earning capacity. The court may also look at the length of your marriage and any financial agreements you made while married.
Couples may reach their own agreements regarding property division through negotiation or mediation, or they may seek the court’s assistance.
Which legal documents and forms will you need for divorce in Texas?
Texas divorce law mandates the filing of certain legal documents and forms to initiate and detail the contractual terms of the divorce. There are deadlines for each of these documents. Additional documents may be requested to prove the claims made within the forms (such as pay stubs to back up income claims).
- Original Petition for Divorce: This document is used to initiate divorce proceedings. It provides details about both parties as well as information on any grounds for their separation.
- Waiver of Service: This form is used when the respondent agrees to waive formal service of process by acknowledging receipt of a divorce petition.
- Civil Case Information Sheet: This form outlines basic details of any legal dispute, such as the names of parties involved, their attorneys (if applicable), and the type of case.
- Affidavit of Indigency: If you cannot afford court fees, this form should help you request a waiver or reduction in fees.
- Final Decree of Divorce: This document sets forth the final terms of your divorce, such as property division and distribution, custody arrangements for children under 18 years old, child support payments, and possible spousal support payments.
- Certificate of Last Known Mailing Address: This form is used to provide the court with updated mailing addresses for those involved in a divorce case. It helps make sure all parties receive important court documents and notifications related to the proceedings.
- Affidavit of Military Status: If either party serves in the military, this form can help them figure out whether certain protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act apply to them.
What documents and forms will you need if children are involved?
Divorces with children typically require the same forms as divorces without children (Divorce Set A) but with additional sections and forms designed to address all child-related issues (Divorce Set B).
Divorce Set B forms contain sections for information about your children as well as details regarding a parenting plan, child support payments, conservatorship (legal custody) arrangements, and access (visitation).
The importance of getting your finances in order
You need certain pieces of information to help you reach an amicable agreement with your ex.
Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
If you and your spouse entered into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, obtain a copy. Familiarize yourself with its terms and provisions before beginning divorce proceedings. Understanding your agreement can assist with the division of assets and debts during divorce proceedings.
Gather financial documents such as your bank, credit card, and investment statements as well as retirement account statements. These will provide an overview of your marital financial situation and help determine overall asset and debt amounts.
Income and expense documentation
Gather documents about your income such as paystubs, tax returns, and any extra earnings above and beyond primary employment. Compile records of monthly expenses including rent, utilities, and regular spending so a temporary order of support (such as child support or spousal support) can be determined.
Start the process of untangling your lives
Living separate lives starts during the divorce process. Here are some essential steps you can start taking now to facilitate this:
Start separating your finances
Opening new bank accounts, getting new credit cards, and changing beneficiaries on insurance policies are essential first steps when filing for divorce. Tracking spending habits also plays an important role, so you can accurately divide assets during the divorce.
Focus on self-care
Prioritize your physical and mental well-being during this difficult time. Take part in activities that bring you joy and support a healthy body and mind. Regular exercise, healthy nutrition, and sufficient rest can all play a part in helping you manage the emotional stress of divorce.
Work together to focus on children
If you have children, both parties should prioritize their well-being during the divorce process. Stay in communication with each other, and work out a co-parenting arrangement that serves the best interests of the children.
Special considerations before divorce
Before beginning the divorce process, remember that individual circumstances can greatly impact the outcome. There may be unique considerations that require special care and planning, and there are no guarantees that going to court will get you what you want.
In the vast majority of cases, both parties are happier when they reach an agreement via mediation since it involves less time, money, and emotional turmoil.
These situations may warrant special considerations:
Military divorce laws allow spouses to file in either the state where the nonmilitary spouse lives, the state where the service member is stationed, or the state where they claim residency.
Texas military personnel must meet residency requirements and file in their county of residency. There are rules regarding pensions and TSPs that must be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Divorces involving business ownership can be complex. To protect yourself and your business throughout the divorce process, it's a good idea to seek guidance from a legal professional with experience handling divorce cases involving businesses.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Texas, and same-sex spouses enjoy all of the rights associated with heterosexual marriages. If you're currently in a same-sex marriage and looking to file for a divorce in Texas, provided at least one party meets residency requirements, all applicable divorce laws and rules should apply.
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Texas Divorce Laws & How to File (2023 Guide). (May 2023). Forbes.
Divorce. (September 2023). Texas State Law Library.
Divorce Set 1 - Uncontested, No Minor Children, No Real Property. Office of Court Administration, Texas Judicial Branch.
Agreed Divorce Forms SET A (Texas Divorce, No Children, Opposite-Sex Spouses). Texas Legal Services Center.
Agreed Divorce Forms SET B (Texas Divorce, With Children, Opposite-Sex Spouses) . Texas Legal Services Center.
Monthly Child Support Calculator. Ken Paxton - Attorney General of Texas.
Same-Sex Divorce in Texas. (January 12, 2023). Texas Legal Services Center.
Filing for Divorce. (September 2023). Texas State Law Library.
Finalizing the Divorce. (September 2023). Texas State Law Library.
Texas Divorce. WomensLaw.org.