The Petitioner is simply the first spouse who files for divorce, and the Respondent is the spouse who responds to the initial filing. It does not matter who files first, and there’s no advantage or disadvantage to either position.
Welcome to Step 1!
Wondering if you are the petitioner or the respondent, or have questions about deadlines and serving? Read the FAQ.
Are you the PETITIONER?
If you are the first one to file for divorce, you are the Petitioner. The court will refer to your spouse as the respondent. Start your questionnaire here to file for divorce.
Are you the RESPONDENT?
If your spouse filed for the divorce, you are the Respondent. You have 20 days after your spouse files the Petition to respond. Please see the FAQs if you think you’ll need a counter-petition.
About the divorce process
How do I know if I am the Petitioner or Respondent?
Does it matter who files for divorce first?
Should I file a counter-petition?
In the Petition, your spouse made requests for relief (ex. property division, support, custody). If there are items that you specifically want to request, that weren’t already addressed in the Petition, or you are contesting the divorce, you’ll want to file a counter-petition. If so, it is ideal to book time with an attorney.
How does being a military family affect my divorce?
There are several extra guidelines for divorce in Texas if you or your spouse are currently or were formerly in the military.
If you are serving in the armed forces outside of Texas, or you have accompanied your spouse who is serving in the armed forces outside of Texas, you may still use these forms if Texas has been the home state for either spouse for at least 6 months and the county where you plan to file the divorce has been the home county of either spouse for at least 90 days.
There are several other considerations, and we’ll walk you through when you get to that part of the process. You can also see our Texas military resource guide for more.
Note: Every state must abide by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act which dictates how to serve a member of the military who is overseas or actively deployed.
What if one spouse resides outside the US?
If you or your spouse lives outside the U.S., we can process your divorce through the Divorce Plus, Divorce with Benefits, or Cooperative Divorce memberships. Please note:
- The overseas spouse must be willing to cooperate and they must have a valid U.S. mailing address.
- Additional service fees may apply.
- If the international spouse’s country prevents us from providing complete service for your divorce, you’ll l only be charged for work that we perform and refunded the rest.
- International divorce usually requires more processing time, potentially up to 18 months, due to mail- and court-processing delays.
About filing for divorce
What does filing a document mean?
Filing a document means giving a copy to the court so the court can put it with all the other documents for the case, or the “file”. Most documents are now kept electronically, though you will still find there is a lot of paper documentation still in the court system.
To start your divorce case, you have to “file” or give your documents to the court. You’ll also have to file more documents later before the judge finalizes your divorce. You may have to file documents throughout your case when different events happen, like your spouse responds to the divorce filing or you move and your address changes. All filed documents need to be formatted correctly or the court won’t accept them.
What's the difference between filing in person and e-filing?
Filing in person means going to the court house and giving the court clerk the documents. E-filing is using the computer to give copies of the documents to the court. This is done either through a special interface on the court website, or in some cases, by email.
How do you file in person?
Filing documents in person is done by taking the physical copies of the documents to the court house and giving them to the court clerk. Often you will stand in line with other people waiting to file documents, then on your turn you’ll meet the clerk at a counter or a window. Some places have a machine that you use to stamp your documents with the date and time before you can give them to the court clerk.
When you file your documents in person they should be in good condition and legible. If possible, do not try to file crumpled, torn, or stained documents. If something happens and your document is not readable, then it is probably worth the effort to make a new copy of it. If the documents are not in good enough condition the court clerk may not accept them.
How do you file electronically (e-file)?
E-filing means that you will not be going to the court in person to file the documents, but giving them to the court in electronic form. Usually the court accepts PDF forms, but the judges at each court can make their own decisions about what formats to accept.
Usually, the court website has instructions on how to e-file, and you might have to create an account before you can file this way. Once you have successfully e-filed your documents, you should see a confirmation page telling you that it worked.
This site has court-approved e-filing service providers. Making an account with one of these providers here will allow you to e-file documents in your case. We recommend making sure that you are dealing with the website for the county that you are filing the case in. You don’t want to accidentally file your documents in a different county.
Look at the electronic copies of the documents that you are trying to give to the court. Make sure you can read them. If they are scanned, make sure the scans are legible. If you can’t read the document, then neither can the court. So if you can’t read the document, make another copy that you can read.
Are there any changes to filing because of Covid-19?
Most courts started accepting e-filing during the pandemic. Some courts closed to filing in person entirely. If you aren’t sure if the court where you are getting divorced accepts e-filing, contact the court clerk and ask them.
Where do I file my divorce paperwork?
You can file your divorce paperwork in either the county you live in or the county where your spouse lives, as long as you or your spouse have lived in that county for at least the last 90 days, and you or your spouse have lived in Texas for at least the last 6 months.
What's a filing fee?
In Texas, the filing fee for a divorce case varies by county, but typically ranges from $250 to $320 to file the Petition. Filing an answer is free. If you cannot afford the filing fee, you can ask the judge to waive the fees by submitting a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs, which you can fill out here.
What if I can't afford the filing fee?
If you can’t afford the filing fee, you can ask the court to waive it by filling out an Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs form. You can fill out this questionnaire to generate this form. Remember, only the Petitioner pays the filing fee.
What is the case (or cause) number?
The case number (also referred to as a cause number) is the unique number assigned to your divorce case. If you file in person, the court clerk will write the case number and court number at the top of the Petition. If you file the Petition electronically, you will be able to access a file-marked copy with the case number and court number once it is accepted by the court.
Note: There is not a uniform format for case numbers in Texas. The format varies by county and may include a string of both letters and numbers.
Will the court contact me directly about the case?
Yes! From time to time the court may communicate with you directly via mail or email. It is important that you continue to regularly monitor your mail and email during the pendency of your case, and promptly review any orders or documents the court sends you as these documents may contain important court deadlines.
How can I find out the status of my case with the court?
Many Texas District Courts and County Courts at Law offer online electronic access to review the status of your case and even the court calendar, or docket. If the divorce paperwork was electronically filed, you may be able to view additional information regarding the status of your case through the service provider’s website.
About using the Divorce Navigator
How and when do I file my forms?
Each step includes directions for filing and serving documents. If you are a DIY Pro + member, we handle that for you.
How do I know what step I'm on?
How can I keep track of where I am in the process?
Sometimes it’s easier to see all of your divorce requirements in one place. If that’s you, download this checklist to mark your progress as you go.
I left my questionnaire before I was finished, and now it looks like it’s blank. What can I do?
If you come back to a questionnaire you’ve only partially completed, the entire form fields may look like they are blank. However, any page you filled out and then hit ‘Save & Continue’ is still in your account. Click My Forms, then go to the questionnaire you were working on from the list, and you can start from where you left off.
I’ve completed all my paperwork, but my spouse refuses to participate in the divorce. What should I do?
When will my divorce be final?
After the 60 day waiting period has passed, you or your spouse can contact the court clerk or court coordinator for your county to set a final hearing (also referred to as a “prove up”). You’ll find out more about this in Step 3.
About the court
Who is the court clerk and what do they do?
The court clerk is in charge of making the court work, and they handle all the scheduling and paperwork for the court. They usually aren’t lawyers, but they are experts in what correctly filed court documents need to look like, and they are also responsible for accepting and rejecting filed documents. You’ll speak to the court clerk when you contact the court.
Througout your divorce, the court clerk will look at all the documents that are filed and make sure they are formatted the right way. That doesn’t mean that they’ll fix your mistakes, but they will tell you if you made a mistake. If your documents aren’t correct, the court clerk won’t accept them.
The court clerk also keeps track of when hearings will be, and lets divorcing parties know when they should appear at those hearings (usually by email).
Do you have advice on dealing with the court clerk?
We recommend being polite and understanding with the court clerk. They’re usually extremely busy, but they are also in charge of accepting (or rejecting) your documents, which is a vital step in getting your divorce. Remember, the court clerk isn’t your lawyer or represent you, so they can’t give you legal advice about your case. Sometimes, they might let you know where your mistakes are in your documents, but it’s not their responsibility. And they can’t tell you how to fix the mistake since that would be giving legal advice, which they aren’t allowed to do.
You may feel frustrated if the court clerk rejects your documents because of a mistake, but we advise staying calm, since your divorce case will be much easier and faster if the court clerk is not frustrated with you. A good strategy is asking them why the documents are being rejected and writing down their answers so you can later fix the documents and try filing again later.
Who is the court coordinator?
Some larger counties have a court coordinator as well as a court clerk. If you have a court coordinator, they will handle the hearing scheduling instead of the court clerk and you may have to communicate with them about the schedule in your case. To find out if your county court has a court coordinator, you can call the court and ask or do an internet search.
After you file for divorce
Is there a waiting period before my divorce is final?
In Texas, a court cannot grant a divorce until the Petition for divorce has been pending for at least 60 days. This time period begins to run on the date the Petition is filed with the court. This “waiting period” serves many purposes. Sometimes it lets the spouses “cool-down” and possibly reconcile. Usually, though, the 60 days is meant to allow the spouses time to reach an agreement on the specifics of their pending divorce.
All of my divorce paperwork has been filed. When will I get my divorce decree?
After the 60 day waiting period has expired, you or your spouse can contact the court clerk or court coordinator for your county to set a final hearing (also referred to as a “prove up”). The purpose of this hearing is for the judge to hear your testimony, ask questions, and review your divorce paperwork. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the judge may permit you to complete a notarized affidavit instead of appearing in person, or appear virtually via video call. If you appear in person, and the divorce is granted, the judge will typically sign the Final Decree at the conclusion of the hearing. You will then immediately file it with the court clerk and receive a file stamped, certified copy.
The court ordered me to schedule mediation. Do I have to schedule it?
We have a court date scheduled, but we’ve submitted all of our paperwork. Do we still need to attend court?
Yes! Unless you receive an order from the court vacating (canceling or rescheduling) your hearing, you need to attend.