Things to Do before You File for Divorce in Texas
- Prepare to file
- Evaluate your personal situation
- Gather financial information
- Assess your immediate needs
- Craft a divorce strategy
If you’re getting divorced, it's crucial to have a clear roadmap before you start.
If you're in Texas and contemplating this substantial life change, understanding the steps involved can make a world of difference.
Want help with your divorce process? Consider working with a divorce coach.
Preparing to file for divorce in Texas
In Texas, you first need a divorce petition and other relevant divorce forms. You can download Texas divorce forms online or acquire them from the district clerk's office.
Once you've completed the necessary forms, you'll need to file them with the court clerk in the county where you meet the residency requirements. In Texas, one party must have been domiciled in Texas for at least six months, and the divorce can be filed in the district court county where either party has lived for the last 90 days.
When you file, make sure to bring copies of all your completed forms, including the original petition for divorce. It's advisable to keep copies for your records and to serve your spouse (the respondent). After filing, the court will issue a citation or summons to notify the respondent of the divorce action.
Evaluate your personal situation
The divorce process involves more than just legal procedures; it's a life-altering decision that can significantly impact your personal and financial life. It's crucial to carefully evaluate your situation across several aspects before proceeding.
One of the most critical aspects to consider is your financial stability post-divorce. How will you manage financially once your marital assets are divided?
If you jointly own a home, would buying out your spouse's share or selling the property benefit your financial future? You may need to consider other assets like retirement accounts, investments, and savings. It might be helpful to consult with a financial advisor to gain a comprehensive understanding of your financial picture and how to best navigate it during a divorce.
If you're not currently working, or if you have been relying on your spouse's income, consider your career prospects. Will you need to get a job or perhaps enhance your skills for better job opportunities? If you have children, how will childcare arrangements affect your ability to work?
These are important considerations, as they can significantly impact your financial independence and lifestyle after a divorce.
Consider how your living arrangements will change during and after the divorce process. Where will you live? If you have children, how will custody be shared, and what impact will this have on their living situation?
Learn about Texas residency requirements
At the time the divorce is filed, you or your spouse must have been living in Texas for the preceding six months. This requirement establishes that one of the parties has a significant connection to the state.
Additionally, the person who files for divorce (the petitioner) must have been a resident of the county in which the divorce is filed for at least 90 days before the filing. This means, for example, if you live in Harris County, you need to have lived there for at least three months before you can file for divorce in that county.
Gather your financial information
In the divorce process, one of the most critical steps is gathering your financial information. This is vital because it provides a comprehensive picture of your financial health, which is necessary for making informed decisions about property division, spousal support, and child support.
Texas operates under the community property law. This means that all income earned and property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered community property, owned equally by both spouses. In a divorce, this community property is typically divided equally.
All sources of income must be taken into account. This includes not only salaries and wages but also bonuses, commissions, rental income, dividends, and any other source of income. Knowing the total income of both spouses is crucial for determining things like alimony and child support.
Understanding your expenses is equally important. This includes your regular bills, such as utilities and mortgage payments. It also includes variable expenses such as groceries, entertainment, and personal care.
Having a clear picture of your expenses will help determine how much income you'll need post-divorce to maintain your standard of living.
In Texas, any funds accumulated in joint bank accounts during the marriage are usually considered community property. The same goes for retirement accounts, investment portfolios, and other financial assets.
Suggested: QDRO in Texas
Transparency is key during this process. Both parties are required to make full disclosure of their assets, debts, income, and expenses. Hiding assets or failing to disclose certain financial information can lead to penalties and could negatively impact the outcome of the divorce.
Assess your immediate needs
In the midst of a divorce, it's essential to prioritize and address your immediate needs. These can range from securing temporary orders to ensuring personal safety and fulfilling parenting requirements.
Here are some steps you might need to take:
Secure temporary orders
Temporary orders are often necessary to provide stability and predictability during the divorce process. These orders can cover a variety of issues, such as temporary spousal support, child custody and visitation, property possession, and payment of debts. If you anticipate needing a temporary order, consult with your attorney as soon as possible.
Ensure personal safety
If there are concerns about your safety or that of your children due to domestic violence or threats, it's crucial to take immediate action. This could involve obtaining a protective order, which prohibits the abuser from committing further acts of violence or harassment or making arrangements to stay in a safe place.
Attend a parenting class
In Texas, if your divorce involves minor children, you may be required to attend a parenting class before the court finalizes your divorce. The class provides guidance on helping children adjust to the changes brought about by divorce. Check with your local court to see if this requirement applies to you.
Plan for living arrangements and expenses
Consider your immediate living arrangements. Will you remain in the marital home, or do you need to find a new place to live?
It's wise to create a budget for your post-divorce expenses, taking into account changes in income and potential spousal or child support.
Craft a divorce strategy
Creating a thoughtful strategy is an essential part of navigating the divorce process. This involves setting clear ground rules between yourself and your spouse, deciding whether to file a contested or uncontested divorce, and determining your goals for the final settlement agreement.
Here's how you can approach each of these steps:
Setting ground rules
This is a difficult time. Open communication and mutual respect are key right now, even though it may be challenging. Establishing ground rules can help maintain civility and make the process smoother.
Your ground rules might include guidelines for communication (such as always communicating in writing), agreements on discussing the divorce with children or publicly, and expectations for behavior during negotiations.
Contested vs. uncontested divorce
The next step is deciding whether to file a contested or uncontested divorce. If both people agree on all aspects of the divorce – how to divide property, how to arrange child custody, and so forth – the divorce is uncontested. This route is generally quicker and less expensive.
In a contested divorce, spouses cannot agree on one or more issues, necessitating court intervention to reach a resolution. While this legal process can be more time-consuming and costly, it may be necessary if an agreement is not possible.
Define your goals
Clearly defining your goals for the divorce settlement is crucial. Consider what matters most to you, whether it's retaining ownership of certain assets, securing custody of children, or ensuring sufficient financial support. Remember, it's important to be realistic and flexible. Negotiation is often required, and compromise is usually part of the process.
Hello Divorce offers forms to help you through this process.
Mediation is a method of dispute resolution that can be particularly beneficial in divorce cases. A neutral professional (the divorce mediator) works with the couple to negotiate and reach agreements on various aspects of their divorce. This may include details about their marital property division, child custody arrangements, and spousal support.
Hello Divorce offers a range of services tailored to meet your unique needs. Our online divorce plans provide step-by-step guidance through the divorce proceedings, making it easier and less intimidating. We also offer legal coaching, where our skilled professionals provide advice and guidance, helping you understand your rights and options.