Texas Divorce Laws

How to File for Divorce in Texas Without a Lawyer

By:
Sophia Merton
Updated
April 14, 2022

Getting a divorce in the state of Texas can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than $20,000. The easiest way to keep the cost of divorce on the lower end of that spectrum is to avoid hiring an attorney. For this reason, it’s common for divorcing couples to seek information on how to file for divorce in Texas without a lawyer.

You are allowed to file as a Pro Se litigant in the state of Texas, but it is typically only advisable to do so if you are filing an uncontested, no-fault divorce.

While it can be tempting to try and save money on a divorce, acting without the help of a lawyer can put you at risk of making costly and life-altering mistakes.

However, if both you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce, getting a DIY divorce can help you save thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. Let’s take a look at what you need to know if you’re filing for a divorce in Texas without an attorney.

Do You Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce in Texas?

divorce lawyer in Texas

You are legally allowed to represent yourself in a divorce in Texas, but you'll want to consider carefully whether or not you're up for the task.

You are not legally required to hire an attorney in order to get divorced in the state of Texas. You can choose to represent yourself in family court during the process. With many tools available on the internet to help you navigate the process, self-filing for divorce has gotten a lot easier these days than it used to be.

That being said, you might want to carefully consider whether or not you will be able to protect your interests and legal rights in a divorce case without the help of an attorney. If your divorce is fairly straightforward, i.e. you and your spouse have few assets, no children, and you agree on all divorce-related issues, then you can save a lot of money by taking a DIY approach to your divorce.

However, there are definitely some benefits to hiring a lawyer. These can include helping to reduce your stress and workload, giving you access to expert legal advice, ensuring that you avoid potentially costly mistakes, and helping you avoid delays in the process. If your spouse has a divorce lawyer, you will probably want to get a lawyer of your own.

Questions to Ask Before Filing for Divorce Without a Lawyer

There are a number of questions you will want to ask yourself before you choose to move forward with a divorce without the help of an attorney.

Are You Eligible to File for Divorce in Texas?

There are residency requirements that you must meet in order to file for divorce in Texas. According to the Texas Family Code, you must have lived in Texas for at least six months before you can file divorce papers. You also are required to have lived in the county where you are filing the documents for at least ninety days.

Is the Divorce Contested or Uncontested?

Couple discussing divorce issues in Texas

Filing for a divorce without a lawyer is much simpler if the two of you can agree on the terms.

Before you decide to get divorced as Pro se litigants (meaning you are representing yourself without the help of a lawyer,) you’ll want to determine whether your divorce is contested or uncontested.

A contested divorce means that the two of you aren’t able to come to an agreement regarding one or more major issues. It can be difficult to always agree on absolutely every issue in a divorce, even if you are both putting forward your best effort.

You may find that you and your spouse disagree about issues that relate to financial issues, property issues, or issues related to your children.

Having a contested divorce doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go through a painful, drawn-out divorce in the courts, though that does sometimes happen. The issues at hand can also be resolved through alternative methods including mediation or negotiation. If you are unable to reach an agreement through informal methods, though, a judge will have to resolve the issues in court.

An uncontested divorce, as you might imagine, is when you and your spouse are able to agree on all of the divorce terms. This means that you can both retain control over your property and parenting decisions, rather than potentially having to turn it over to a judge.

While you have the right to represent yourself in Texas divorce cases, it is likely a good idea to at least consult with an attorney before doing so if you’re pursuing an uncontested divorce. In general, it is recommended that you hire an attorney when your divorce is contested.

Representing yourself as a pro se litigant is much more reasonable if your divorce is uncontested. When you and your spouse can agree on all divorce-related issues on your own, you can go through the process without the help of a lawyer. Not only are uncontested divorces much more straightforward, but you also stand to save a lot of money by streamlining the process and avoiding hiring attorneys.

Are You Filing a No-Fault or Fault-Based Divorce?

Another important question to ask yourself before you file for a divorce without a lawyer in Texas is on what grounds you are getting divorced. Grounds refer to a legally acceptable reason that you want to dissolve your marriage.

In the state of Texas, there are seven grounds for divorce. Three of them are considered no-fault grounds, and the other four are considered fault-based grounds.

The three no fault grounds for divorce in Texas are:

  • Insupportability (irreconcilable differences)
  • Living apart
  • Confinement in a mental hospital

The four fault-based grounds for divorce in Texas are:

  • Cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Felony conviction
  • Abandonment

It is only advisable to pursue a divorce without the help of a lawyer if you are filing for an uncontested divorce based on one of the no-fault grounds. By far the most common grounds for divorce in Texas is insupportability, which means that you and your spouse have differences that can’t be reconciled.

If you are planning to sue for divorce using fault-based grounds, you will most likely want the help of a lawyer. These cases are much more complicated, more time consuming, and more stressful. If you are claiming that your spouse is responsible for the end of the marriage through the court system, you will have to prove it in court. Unless you are a legal expert in your own right, you will probably want the help of a lawyer to go that route.

How to File for Divorce in Texas Without a Lawyer

If you have decided that filing for divorce without a lawyer in Texas is the right decision for you, there are a number of steps you will have to complete in order to file for and finalize your divorce. In many instances, there is a specific timeline you need to follow, so you’ll want to be sure you are attentive to various deadlines during the process.

Determine Which County You Should File for Divorce In

Texas court house to file divorce papers

Which Texas court house you should file your divorce papers in depends on the county you live in.

Jurisdiction over divorces falls on District Courts in the state of Texas. If you reside in a very rural county, there might only be one District Court in your county or even one that presides over multiple small counties. If you live in a small county, you will want to find out which District Court serves your county.

In larger districts, District Courts are divided into different subdivisions that focus in certain legal areas. If you live in such a district, you will want to file your divorce papers with the proper Family District Court.

You can determine which court you should file with by using the Texas Pro Se Divorce Handbook.

Obtain the Necessary Forms

Once you have figured out which court you should file your paperwork with, you will want to obtain the proper documents. Whether you and your spouse own real property or have children together will impact which forms you need to fill out.

There are approved sets of forms for couples that have children, don’t have children, or don’t have either children or property.

Complete the Civil Case Information Sheet

You will need to submit a Civil Case Information Sheet in order to file for a divorce in Texas. This form asks for information about you and your spouse, including your name, phone number, address, and email. Since this is a sheet that is required for anyone filing a civil case, you will also need to indicate that you are filing for a divorce under the “Family Law” section.

Fill Out the Original Petition for Divorce

When most people think of divorce papers, they are usually thinking of what is known in Texas as the Original Petition for Divorce. Whether or not you have children will have a big impact on what information you need to offer on this form.

For people who are filing for divorce without children, the form is only four pages long. However, this paperwork for couples with children requires filling out more than twice as many pages.

When you are filling out this paperwork, you can leave the case number blank. When you file the paperwork with the court, the Court Clerk will fill out this section for you.

If you are the spouse that is filing the paperwork, you are referred to as the Petitioner. The spouse that will receive the paperwork is known as the respondent.

File Your Paperwork With the District Court

You will want to bring the original petition in addition to two extra copies to the appropriate District Clerk’s office along with the required filing fee. You can either hand-deliver this paperwork or you can mail it. If you choose to mail it, you will want to include a stamped, self-addressed envelope so that the clerk can send you a copy.

Provide Legal Notice to Your Spouse

The next step is to legally notify your spouse of the Petition. There are a number of ways that you can choose to serve your soon to be ex-spouse (the Respondent):

  • Hire a county constable or private process serve to personally serve a “citation” to the Respondent
  • Have the Respondent sign a waiver of citation
  • If you cannot locate the Respondent after a diligent search, you can ask the court to order the serving of the Respondent by posting or publication

The easiest method is to have your spouse sign a Waiver of Service. The Respondent must sign this after the Petition has been filed with the court and a file-stamped copy of the Petition has been given to the Respondent, otherwise, the waiver isn’t valid.

Wait for a Response or Have Your Spouse Complete a Waiver of Service Form

Your spouse will have a set period of time to file an answer to the notification of the Petition for Divorce regardless of how they have been notified. The deadline is 10 a.m. on the Monday after twenty days from the day that they were served.

It’s worth noting, though, an answer will be considered valid even if they miss the deadline so long as they do so before the divorce has been finalized.

If an answer isn’t filed by the Respondent, it is possible after a certain period of time to continue moving forward with the divorce.

Respondents also have the option to file a counterpetition in addition to an answer.

Wait for the Mandatory Period

In the state of Texas, there is a mandatory waiting period of at least sixty days before a divorce can be finalized. The clock starts ticking on this waiting period from the date that you file your divorce petition with the court.

If you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement on any outstanding issues during this time, it can make the whole process go much more smoothly and quickly.

Ground rules for the waiting period can be set in the form of temporary orders at the motion of either party or the court.

While a divorce cannot be finalized before the sixty-day waiting period is up except in very specific instances, you can move forward with other parts of the process.

You are allowed to schedule your final hearing any date after the waiting period is over. Your final hearing can involve a bench trial or a jury trial. If you and your spouse have managed to come to an agreement on all divorce-related issues and present them in writing, your hearing can be quite simple. In these cases, your hearing might only consist of answering a few questions before the judge enters the agreement into the records of the court.

The Final Decree of Divorce With Your Spouse

The Final Decree of Divorce can be reached by the judge or a jury or through agreement by you and your spouse. This should deal with any of the issues that were still outstanding in your divorce. Typically, what this means is that the decree will outline the division of all community debt and community property and make clear how child custody and child support will be dealt with.

This will also detail any name changes if one or both parties are reverting their name to a previously used name, such as a maiden name. However, you will need to undergo a separate proceeding if you want to change your name to a name you have never used before legally.

In some courts, you will be required to submit your draft of the Final Decree of Divorce as a pro se litigant before you appear for your final hearing. In order to determine whether you need to do this in your jurisdiction, you can check with the court administrator.

You will need to fill this paperwork out in full in order for it to be signed by the judge. It’s therefore very important that you don’t leave anything blank in the Final Decree of Divorce.

If Applicable, Attend Parenting Course Mandated By the Courts

People in Texas parenting class for divorce

Some counties mandate that divorcing parents complete a parenting course.

In some, but not all, Texas counties, parents that are getting divorced are required to go to parenting courses before their divorce can be finalized. You might need to file your certificate of completion with the court before you can prove up your divorce.

You might want to get in touch with the court administrator to learn whether or not you will be required to attend this type of course before scheduling the prove-up for your divorce. Understanding what is required of you can help to make sure that you can attend the course and receive the certificate of completion in a timely matter that doesn’t set your divorce back.

The Day of the Divorce

If you are pursuing a simple, uncontested divorce, your hearing might be as simple as appearing before a judge and providing both evidence and testimony regarding the terms of your divorce. This can mean answering just a few questions before he signs the Final Decree. When the parties are getting this type of simple divorce, it is sometimes known as the “prove-up.”

If there are contested issues in your divorce at the time of the hearing, though, the process won’t be as simple. It is often recommended to enlist the help of a lawyer if you are going through a contested divorce.

You will want to call the court ahead of time to learn when they schedule uncontested divorces and if you will be required to make an appointment. In some districts, you also might be required to go to the clerk’s office and get the official court file in order to bring it with you to the courtroom.

On the day of your divorce, you will want to bring:

  • The original Final Decree of Divorce
  • The Employer’s Withholding Order (if child support is involved)
  • A file-stamped copy of a Waiver of Service or proof of service on the Respondent
  • Three copies of each document

The Waiver of Service needs to have been on file with the court for at least ten days prior to the final hearing.

When your case is called by the judge, you will want to approach them, hand them the original Final Decree of Divorce and the other documents you have brought. In the Pro Se Divorce Handbook, you can find sample prove-up scripts under Appendices A and B. In a simple, uncontested divorce, you will want to read the script that applies to your circumstances.

You might then be asked some questions by the judge. If the divorce is approved, the judge will tell you they are granting a divorce and sign the Final Decree of Divorce. They will also sign any other appropriate orders, if applicable.

The court files will then be returned to you. You will then go to the judge’s court administrator with the court file and copies of the required documents. The copies will then be “conformed” (stamped with the signature of the judge) and returned to you. The court file itself will need to be left with the administrator.

You will then be responsible for sending one set of the final document copies to the Respondent. In order for the State of Texas to process your divorce, you will also have to complete a form known as the “Austin” form. There might be additional forms you have to complete if child support is ordered in your case. These forms will be for the Child Support Disbursement Unit or the Attorney General. You can find copies of these forms with the court clerk.

Once the judge has signed and dated the Final Decree of Divorce, your divorce is finalized. Neither you nor the Respondent is legally allowed to get married again until thirty days have passed from the date the Final Decree of Divorce is signed. This is because both you and the Respondent are allotted a thirty-day window in which you can appeal the decision of the judge.

Understanding Texas Divorce Laws Can Empower You in Your Divorce

Getting a divorce without a lawyer can save you a lot of money. However, it’s only advisable to go this route if you are getting an uncontested, no-fault divorce. Additionally, the process can get a lot more complicated if you and your spouse share significant assets, debts, or have children together.

Are you looking for more information about divorce laws in Texas? If so, check out our library of articles on TexasDivorceLaws.org.

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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