Texas Divorce Laws

What Is a Dissolution of Marriage in Texas?

By:
Sophia Merton
Updated
June 9, 2022

If you’ve started researching the divorce process in the Lone Star State, you may have come across the term “dissolution of marriage.” What is a dissolution of marriage in Texas? Is it the same thing as a divorce?

It’s worth understanding that this term doesn’t mean the same thing in all 50 states. In some states, a dissolution isn’t the same thing as divorce. In these cases, couples are only allowed to use the process of dissolution under particular circumstances.

In most states, though, dissolution of marriage simply refers to the ways that a married couple can end their marriage permanently.

Let’s take a look at what you need to know about the dissolution of marriage in Texas.

What Is a Dissolution of Marriage in Texas?

man on couch upset about dissolution of marriage in Texas

In Texas, the dissolution of marriage refers to legally ending a marriage.

In the Texas Family Code, the phrase “dissolution of marriage” is used interchangeably with the word “divorce.” A dissolution of marriage simply means that a marriage is legally over. It can, therefore, be used to refer to both divorce and annulment, as both of these are processes that legally end a marriage. The term can also be used to refer to the declaration that a marriage is void.

However, it's worth noting that depending on which sources you turn to, there is a bit of disagreement over whether or not an annulment and a declaration that a marriage is void constitute a dissolution of marriage. The argument here is that in both cases, the marriage is considered void and therefore, technically, never existed. From this standpoint, the marriage cannot be dissolved because it never legally existed in the first place.

Are Divorce and Marriage Dissolution Always Interchangeable Terms?

Even though dissolution and divorce are used interchangeably in Texas, it’s worth noting that this isn't always the way the term dissolution is interpreted in all states.

For example, in some states, a marriage is being dissolved when neither party is alleging fault. If one spouse is alleging fault, the process is known as divorce.

Because the term can mean different things in different states, it can create unnecessary confusion. Luckily, in Texas, the use of the term dissolution is fairly simple. Whether you are getting an annulment or a divorce, you are working towards the dissolution of your marriage in the eyes of Texas law.

How Do You Dissolve a Marriage in Texas?

couple on couch deciding to dissolve their marriage in texas

Most people will get divorced in order to dissolve a marriage. However, by some definitions of the term, annulment and declaring a marriage void are also forms of marriage dissolution.

There are three ways for marriages to end in the state of Texas: divorce, annulment, or death. If you (or your spouse, or the two of you together,) have decided that you aren’t going to spend the rest of your lives together, it means that you will need to pursue either a divorce or an annulment.

For most couples, the path to take will likely be that of divorce. However, if your marriage was never actually valid from the start, you might be eligible to get an annulment. Related but slightly different from an annulment is the process of declaring a marriage void.

Divorce

To get a divorce in Texas, you have to meet certain residency requirements. Either you or your spouse must be a resident of:

  • The county where you file for divorce for at least ninety days before you file
  • The state of Texas for at least six months before you file

The state of Texas allows you to pursue divorce on both no-fault and fault grounds. In general, most couples choose to pursue a no-fault divorce because it is less likely to produce the outcome of a long, drawn-out court battle and also doesn’t require a lengthy pre-divorce separation.

There are a number of important steps and milestones during the divorce process that you’ll want to know about if you are motivated to obtain your divorce as efficiently as possible. What these steps precisely entail will depend on a number of factors, such as whether the divorce is agreed or contested, whether you’re filing for a fault-based divorce or not, whether there are children involved, and much more.

Some of the basic steps you should expect to go through when getting a divorce in Texas, though, include:

  • Filing the Original Petition for Divorce and accompanying documents
  • Serve the divorce papers
  • Waiting period
  • The Respondent answers the divorce petition
  • Standard temporary orders (if applicable)
  • Financial disclosures
  • Finalizing the divorce

There is a sixty-day waiting period in the state of Texas in order to get a divorce. In almost all cases, a court won’t grant your final divorce until at least sixty days have gone by since you filed the petition for a divorce.

There are only a handful of circumstances where the waiting period is waived, and these have to do with specific circumstances regarding an active family violence protective order or the respondent being convicted of a domestic violence crime against someone in the household.

Annulment

When you get a divorce, you are ending a legally valid marriage. When you get an annulment, on the other hand, you are ending a marriage that never should have gone through and is, therefore, invalid.

In order to get an annulment in Texas, you’re required to prove that your marriage was never valid to begin with. In order to do so, you’ll need to be able to show that any of the following are true:

  • Intoxication: One spouse couldn’t consent to the marriage because of intoxication during the ceremony
  • Incest: The two spouses are related, closer than first cousins
  • Impotence: One spouse cannot engage in sexual intercourse permanently
  • Duress or force: One spouse was forced, threatened, or coerced to get married
  • Underage: One spouse wasn’t legally old enough to get married
  • Bigamy: One spouse was still married to another person when the marriage occurred
  • Fraud: One spouse hid something or lied about something that was essential to the marriage

There are some additional requirements for some grounds for annulment as well.

If you are eligible for an annulment in the state of Texas, the whole process can go quite a bit faster than the standard divorce process. This is partly because there is no waiting period required between filing the annulment petition and the court granting an annulment, while there is a sixty-day waiting period in the case of most divorces.

That being said, you should still expect an annulment to take at least a few weeks.

Another benefit of an annulment vs. a divorce is that your marriage will be declared void as a part of the process. This means that you can legally say that the marriage never existed.

Declaring a Marriage Void

When you declare a marriage void, you are going through a legal process in which the marriage is found to have been void from the very beginning. Once the marriage is voided, it is as if the marriage never occurred in the first place in the eyes of the law. The spouses are not able to agree that it is a valid marriage in these instances, and the marriage no longer exists under Texas law regardless of whether a court rules it so.

In most cases, the same courts that are able to decide divorce cases are also able to handle suits to declare a marriage void. If you are considering pursuing a suit to declare a marriage void, you can call your local district clerk to find out which of your county courts handle this type of case.

Divorce, Annulment, and a Suit to Declare a Marriage Void: What Are the Differences?

Though divorce, annulment, and a suit to declare a marriage void are all ways to dissolve a marriage in Texas, they all refer to slightly different processes that are pursued based on different circumstances.

When you get divorced, you are ending a marriage that is considered valid in the eyes of the law. It’s fairly to understand how divorce, therefore, differs from annulment and a suit to declare a marriage void, as in both of the latter cases, the dissolution focuses on the reasons why the marriage was never valid from the beginning.

However, an annulment and a suit to declare a marriage void aren’t exactly the same. There are separate grounds upon which people can file suit for each type of dissolution. The primary difference between these two forms of marriage dissolution is that a void marriage is automatically not a legal marriage regardless of what the court decides.

How Long Does It Take to Dissolve a Marriage in Texas?

two people fighting about dissolving marriage in texas

Getting a divorce in Texas usually takes at least six months, while annulments generally take at least several weeks.

When you realize that your marriage is no longer going to work, it’s natural to want the dissolution process to be over with quickly so you can get on with your life. In most cases, dissolving a marriage in Texas will mean filing for divorce. In some instances, though, spouses might qualify for an annulment.

In general, an annulment is a faster process than a divorce because there is not a mandatory sixty-day waiting period. However, it’s important to understand that there are a lot of factors that influence how long either process will take.

Divorce

Due to the waiting period that applies in almost all Texas divorce cases, a divorce in the Lone Star State will take, at minimum, sixty days.

However, you shouldn’t assume that you can file for a divorce and have the entire process completed in two months. Even in the simplest of divorces, you will probably want to expect that your final divorce hearing won’t be able to occur immediately after your waiting period is up.

Divorces in Texas usually take about six months to one year or longer in order to be finalized.

There are a number of factors that will influence how long it will take to get divorced in Texas, including:

  • How complicated your finances are
  • Whether the divorce is agreed or contested
  • Whether one or both spouses is accusing the other of fault that led to the dissolution of the marriage
  • Whether you and your spouse have minor children
  • Which Texas courthouse you are filing for a divorce with

If you and your spouse agree on all of the terms of the divorce, don’t have children, and don’t have much in the way of assets or debts, you can expect your divorce to be finalized more quickly than if you and your spouse don’t agree on the terms of the divorce, have children, and have complicated finances.

Annulment

If you are dissolving a marriage in Texas through an annulment, it can happen quite a bit faster than if you go through the divorce process. However, you have to fit very specific requirements in order to qualify for an annulment.

There is no waiting period required by the state when you get an annulment between the filing of the Original Petition to Annul Marriage and the moment when an annulment is granted by the court.

That being said, you shouldn’t expect an annulment to occur overnight. Courts tend to have their schedules booked out, meaning that an annulment will most likely take at least a few weeks to be finalized.

Suit to Declare a Marriage Void

Unlike in cases of divorce, there is no waiting period in the state of Texas that is mandatory between the filing and the court granting the suit. Just like with annulment, however, you shouldn’t expect that the declaration of marriage being void is something that will happen instantaneously. Depending on the schedule of the courthouse, it can take a few weeks at the very least to have a court grant a suit to declare your marriage void.

How Are Assets Split During the Dissolution of a Marriage in Texas?

There are nine states in the United States that are “community property” states. These are:

  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • California
  • Nevada
  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Louisiana
  • Wisconsin

In addition to these states, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alaska are elective community property states. Puerto Rico and Guam are the two community property jurisdictions out of the five inhabited US territories.

In community property states, judges begin with the assumption that any property or debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage belong to both spouses (i.e., is community property.) In a divorce in a community property state, you will need to prove that something initially assumed to be community property is separate property if you believe that it shouldn’t be divided.

There are certain types of property that are automatically assumed to be separate property in Texas. These include:

  • Property acquired by one spouse during the marriage by descent, devise, or gift
  • Property that one spouse owned or claimed before the marriage

In general, community property in Texas will be divided equally between spouses, split 50-50. In some instances, though, a judge might change the distribution of property based upon what they consider to be fair given the situation.

How Do Judges Decide Child Custody and Child Support in the Dissolution of a Marriage in Texas?

child on log in custody of mother after dissolution of marriage in texas

If you and your spouse can't decide how you want to handle child custody and support in a divorce, a judge will decide for you.

The primary consideration in any decision about child custody in the state of Texas is the child’s best interest. This applies to both legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody is the right to make important decisions about the upbringing of the child. In Texas, it is referred to as “managing conservatorship.”

Physical custody is where the child will live and when each parent will have access to the child. In Texas, physical custody is referred to as “possessory conservatorship” and the access parents have to the child is known as “visitation.”

The presumption of Texas law is that both parents having managing conservatorship is in the best interest of the child. However, there are some specific circumstances that might lead a court to believe otherwise.

Divorcing parents can work to create a parenting plan. However, if they can’t agree upon one, the judge will issue a possession order and outline when the child will be in the care of each parent.

When it comes to child support, the parent that spends the least amount of time with the child is responsible for paying. Child support is generally based on the number of children being supported and a percentage of the parent’s net income.

What Are the Most Common Reasons For Marriage Dissolution in Texas?

The decision to dissolve a marriage is probably the most difficult choice many married couples face. When a marriage isn’t working out, there are likely a lot of different intermingled issues that lead to the decision to pursue a divorce. Some of the most commonly cited reasons for divorce in the state of Texas include:

  • Lack of communication
  • Financial disagreements
  • Feeling held back by the marriage
  • Lack of trust
  • Unmet expectations
  • Incompatibility of desires and interests
  • Rapid lifestyle changes
  • Insecurity or jealousy
  • Cultural or religious differences
  • Domestic abuse
  • Health problems
  • Extramarital affairs or infidelity
  • Too much conflict
  • Getting married too young
  • Substance abuse
  • Lack of commitment

For many couples, it might not be as straightforward as one isolated incident or problem in the marriage that leads to divorce, but rather a collection of interrelated problems.

Are you interested in learning more about why people get divorced? If you are determining whether or not your marriage is salvageable, sometimes it can be helpful to understand why most divorces occur. Check out our deep dive on why people get divorced to gain more insight into the matter.

How Common Is Marriage Dissolution in Texas?

The divorce rate has been steadily declining since around 1990, when there were about 5.5 divorces for every 1000 Texas residents. In 2019, this number had dropped all the way to 2.1 divorces for every 1000 Texas residents, and in 2020 there were only 1.5 divorces for every 1000 Texas residents.

However, it’s worth noting that 2020 was an abnormal year in many regards, and it’s possible that this number is lower than it would be otherwise if it weren’t for the major societal disruption of the pandemic.

Overall, the United States has the sixth-highest divorce rate in the world. The divorce rate for the country is 15.7 divorces per 1,000 married women in 2018. The state with the highest divorce rate in 2018 (as well as 2017) was Arkansas, where there were 26 divorces per 1,000 married women in 2018 leaving the state with a divorce rate of 25.9%.

The state with the lowest divorce rate in 2018 was North Dakota, clocking in at 8.7%.

The Lone Star State sits comfortably in the middle of the list when it comes to ranking the U.S. state by their divorce rate. Coming in at number 21, the divorce rate in 2018 was 16.8%.

Are you wondering if you can handle getting divorced in Texas without hiring a lawyer

What Are the Grounds For Dissolving a Marriage in Texas?

There are different grounds upon which you can dissolve a marriage in Texas. In some instances, you might be able to get an annulment or declare the marriage void. If you don’t qualify for an annulment or a declaration of marriage being void and you want to end your marriage legally, you will need to get a divorce.

Grounds For Divorce in Texas

In the state of Texas, there are seven grounds that can be claimed in order to file for divorce. Some of these grounds are considered “no-fault” grounds, meaning that you are not alleging that either of you is responsible for the dissolution of the marriage because of your behavior or actions. The others are “fault” grounds, meaning that one spouse is accusing the other of having behaved or acted in a way that led to the dissolution of the marriage.

Insupportability

Many people choose to file for divorce based on insupportability, which is sometimes referred to as “irreconcilable differences.” This is a no-fault ground for divorce, meaning that neither spouse is considered responsible for the dissolution of the marriage.

Insupportability refers to when there is so much conflict and discord in the marriage that it prevents “any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.”

Living Apart

If spouses have lived apart without cohabiting for at least three years, the court can grant a divorce in favor of either spouse.

Confinement in a Mental Hospital

A divorce can be granted in favor of one spouse if the other has been confined in a private or state mental hospital for at least three years. The mental hospital can be in Texas or any other state. In order to have a divorce granted based on these grounds, it must appear that it is unlikely that the spouse will recover from their mental disorder or that a relapse would be probable even if they did recover.

Cruelty

If one spouse is proven to have treated the other cruelly in a way that makes it unreasonable to expect that they can continue living together, the court can grant a divorce in favor of one spouse based on these grounds.

If your spouse is cruel or abusive to you, the divorce process is likely a lot more stressful. You should not assume that a spouse that has treated you poorly will play nice during the divorce process. For that reason, it's good to be aware of some of the most common sneaky divorce tactics in order to know what to look out for.

Abandonment

One spouse can be granted a divorce in their favor if the other spouse left with the intention of abandonment and was gone for at least one year.

Conviction of a Felony

If one spouse has been convicted of a felony, has been imprisoned for at least one year, and hasn’t been pardoned, all during the marriage, the court can grant a divorce in favor of the other spouse. However, these grounds cannot be used if the imprisoned spouse was convicted based upon the testimony of the complaining spouse.

Adultery

If one spouse has committed adultery, the court can grant a divorce in favor of the other. However, it’s important to understand that with all of the fault-based grounds for divorce, you (and your lawyer) will need to prove that the other spouse committed the behaviors or actions you are claiming led to the dissolution of the marriage.

Grounds For Annulment in Texas

You can file for an annulment in Texas based on a number of different grounds, including:

  • A spouse concealed a prior divorce
  • A spouse was coerced into marrying the other by duress, fraud, or force
  • One of the spouses is permanently impotent
  • One of the spouses was under the influence of narcotics or alcohol
  • One spouse is under eighteen
  • One spouse didn’t have the mental capacity to agree to or enter into the marriage
  • The marriage occurred within 72 hours of the issuance of the marriage license

If you are getting an annulment on the grounds that one spouse is under eighteen, a judge may grant the annulment if one spouse is between sixteen and eighteen and married without a court order or parental consent. The judge will take a number of factors into consideration including the welfare of the spouses.

In these cases, the petition for an annulment can be filed by:

  • A parent before the spouse turns eighteen
  • A guardian or court-ordered managing conservator of the person before they turn eighteen
  • A next friend for the benefit of the spouse that is underage within ninety days of the marriage

If you are trying to get an annulment based on the grounds that one spouse was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a judge will decide whether or not they were under the influence to the extent that they didn’t have the ability to consent to the marriage. In order to receive an annulment based on these grounds, the petitioner must not have lived with the spouse voluntarily after the drugs or alcohol wore off.

Grounds For Declaring a Marriage Void in Texas

There are a number of different grounds in the state of Texas under which an individual can file a suit to declare a marriage void. These include:

  • Bigamy
  • Incest
  • The spouses are former or current stepparent and stepchild
  • One party is under eighteen and hasn’t been legally emancipated

There are a number of requirements that must be met in order for a marriage to be declared void based on each of these grounds.

Are You Dissolving Your Marriage in Texas?

If you are ending your marriage in Texas, your mind is probably overloaded with questions and concerns. Regardless of how amicable the divorce is, it can be stressful and overwhelming to end one chapter of life and begin another.

At TexasDivorceLaws.org, we believe that the legal process becomes much more navigable when you understand what your rights and responsibilities are under the law. The outcome of a divorce proceeding can have a major impact on your life, and having a solid grasp of the process can help ensure that you receive a favorable outcome.

It’s for that reason that we’ve been building a library of resources for Texas residents about divorce, marriage, annulments, prenups, and more. If you’re dissolving your marriage in the Lone Star State, be sure to check out our articles here.

Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is a researcher and writer that aims to help make the complexities of the legal system understandable to the layperson. Believing that people can be empowered by understanding their rights and responsibilities under the law, Sophia aims to offer accurate and well-researched information in straightforward and easy-to-digest legal articles.

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