Texas Divorce Laws

Can You Get Divorced for Any Reason in Texas?

By:
Sophia Merton
Updated
September 2, 2022

Are you contemplating divorce and wondering if you’ll be granted a divorce from the court? Can you get divorced for any reason in Texas, or do you need specific grounds?

When you file for divorce, you are asking the court to formally dissolves a legal marriage. Each state has its own laws that govern the process of divorce, including which grounds for divorce are acceptable.

The laws surrounding divorce have changed greatly in the U.S. since the middle of the 20th century. While it used to be that courts would only grant a divorce if you had sufficient grounds such as adultery, cruelty, or abandonment, this is no longer the case.

These days, all U.S. states allow for some form of no-fault divorce, including Texas. Let’s look at what you should know about the acceptable grounds for divorce in the Lone Star State.

What Are Grounds For Divorce?

When you file for divorce in Texas, you must list a legally accepted reason for your divorce. These are known as grounds for divorce. Most states in the U.S. are no-fault divorce states, however, a number of states still require that the person filing for divorce provides a reason for dissolving the marriage.

black and white photo of couple getting divorced in texas

There are a number of legally accepted reasons for divorce in Texas, also known as grounds for divorce.

Each U.S. state has its own set of acceptable grounds for divorce. Historically, most states required that divorces only be granted based on fault grounds. These days, though, all states allow some form of no-fault divorce.

Common no-fault grounds in U.S. states include irreconcilable differences and living separately, while common fault-based grounds include adultery and cruelty. Texas has its own set of acceptable grounds for divorce, which we will explore a little later in the article.

Can You Get Divorced for Any Reason in Texas?

When you file your Original Petition for Divorce, you will have to state the reason that you want the court to legally dissolve your marriage. However, there are a number of existing options you can choose from, the most common of which is insupportability. Commonly referred to as irreconcilable differences in other states, this term means that you are claiming that the marriage is irreparable.

distressed woman getting a divorce in texas

The most common ground for divorce in Texas is insupportability. This means that you and your spouse are at a point in your relationship where you no longer believe the marriage is salvageable.

This means that you can, in short, get divorced for any reason in Texas so long as you believe that the marriage isn’t salvageable. Insupportability can simply mean that you and your spouse experience a conflict of personalities or that there is too much discord in the marriage.

When you file for a no-fault divorce on the grounds of insupportability, you aren’t faced with the burden of providing proof for the reason you are getting divorced. It only takes one spouse to decide to get divorced– both parties don’t have to agree to end the marriage.

When you file for divorce, your spouse has the opportunity to file an answer and, if applicable, a counterpetition. If they choose not to file an answer before the deadline, however, they are giving up their right to have any say or participation in the divorce process. In these cases, the spouse that filed for divorce can ask the court to grant them a default divorce.

What Is the Difference Between a Fault and No-Fault Divorce?

In a no-fault divorce, the spouse who is filing for divorce isn’t required to prove that the other spouse has done something wrong that led to the marriage ending. When an individual files for a fault-based divorce, however, they are stating that they are seeking a divorce because of specific behavior or actions of the other spouse (such as adultery, abandonment, prison confinement, or cruelty.)

couple having irreconcilable differences in texas

When you file for divorce in Texas, you can file on either no-fault grounds or fault-based grounds.

The primary conceptual difference between fault and no-fault divorce is whether one party or both are being held to blame for the dissolution of the marriage. There are also very practical differences between these types of divorces, though– a fault-based divorce is often more complex, lengthy, and expensive than a no-fault divorce.

(Wondering how much you should expect to pay when getting divorced? This guide looks at everything you need to know about the cost of divorce in Texas.)

There are seventeen states in the U.S. that are considered no-fault states in the context of divorce. These states are:

  • Oregon
  • Wisconsin
  • Nevada
  • Washington
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Hawaii
  • Florida
  • California
  • Colorado

You might notice that Texas isn’t on this list. That doesn’t mean that you can’t file for a no-fault divorce, however. It simply means that you have the option to file a fault-based or no-fault divorce in Texas.

The states listed above are sometimes referred to as true no-fault states because you aren’t given the option to file for divorce on fault-based grounds. All states now recognize no-fault divorce, but only some states no longer allow fault-based divorce.

In true no-fault states, fault-based divorces are no longer recognized. However, fault can still have an impact on the outcome of divorce in no-fault states in some instances. For example, in Florida, custody decisions can be impacted by one party committing adultery.

Since the laws around the grounds for divorce differ in each state, it’s important to become familiar with your own state laws when filing for divorce.

No-Fault Grounds For Divorce in Texas

Most people that file for divorce in Texas do so in the form of no-fault divorces. This type of divorce formally states that neither party is guilty of any misconduct or to blame for the dissolution of the marriage.

couple on couch not communicating getting divorced in texas

Filing for a no-fault divorce is typically faster, less expensive, and less emotionally taxing than filing based on fault grounds.

Some individuals may choose to file for a no-fault divorce even if they believe that their spouse is at fault for ending the marriage. This is because proving fault in a marriage isn’t an easy task, and substantial evidence is required. On top of that, the process of proving fault in a marriage tends to be much more expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally difficult.

Insupportability

You’ve probably heard about couples that got divorced due to “irreconcilable differences.” In Texas, the concept of getting divorced because a marriage is no longer endurable or tolerable is known as insupportability.

Insupportability is the most common ground for divorce in Texas. The term is purposefully vague and can cover all manner of marital issues, allowing people who are dealing with conflict that prevents the potential for reconciliation to dissolve their marriages.

Even if the party filing for divorce believes that their spouse is at fault for the relationship falling apart, they might choose to file on the no-fault grounds of insupportability. When you file on fault-based grounds, you have to go through the time, effort, and expense of proving the fault of your spouse. Many people decide it is not worth the effort to legally prove the fault of the other spouse and instead get a no-fault divorce in a more cost-effective and timely manner.

In the Texas Family Code, the court is allowed to grant a divorce without any consideration for fault if the union:

“...has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.”

Living Apart

Another reason you can get divorced in Texas that isn’t fault-based is living apart. When spouses haven’t lived together for at least three years, a divorce can be granted by the court. During this period of time, the couple can’t have been cohabitating at any point and must have been living separately.

When the grounds for a Texas are listed as “living apart,” the court can rule in favor of either spouse.

Confinement in a Mental Hospital

While certainly not the most common reason for divorce in Texas, you can also file for a no-fault divorce if one spouse has been confined in a private or state mental hospital for at least three years and it appears that they won’t recover (or, alternatively, if they could recover, a relapse would be likely.)

Fault Grounds For Divorce in Texas

It can be very difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to get a divorce on fault-based grounds. On top of that, the whole process can be extremely stressful and emotional. Divorces can start getting nasty quickly when fault is on the table, and individuals should think carefully about whether they want to go through the trouble of filing for a fault-based divorce.

If you have ample proof and enough to gain from filing for a fault-based divorce, you might find that this is the right route for you. However, in many instances, people choose to file for a no-fault divorce even when there is fault involved because it makes the process faster, less costly, and less emotionally taxing.

Adultery

If one spouse commits adultery, a Texas court can grant a divorce in favor of one spouse. In order to be given a divorce on these grounds, however, you have to have clear and positive proof that your spouse was cheating on you.

This doesn’t mean that you need to have video evidence, of course. But it can be difficult to prove adultery because of the reality that participants often go to great lengths to keep their behavior hidden. You might be able to prove adultery through substantial circumstantial evidence, such as bank statements or receipts that show the purchase of gifts, trips, loans, or jewelry for a lover.

It’s important to understand, though, that mere innuendo and suggestion aren’t enough to prove adultery in a Texas divorce case.

If you are living separately from your spouse but still married, you’ll want to know that acts of adultery committed when you’re no longer living together can still be used to support a fault-based judgment against an individual. This means that it is in your best interest to wait to start a new romantic relationship until you have finalized your Texas divorce.

Cruelty

If one spouse willfully causes pain and suffering to their husband or wife, the complaining spouse can be granted a fault-based divorce on the grounds of cruelty. The Texas Family Code states that the court can grant the divorce in favor of one spouse if the other spouse “is guilty of cruel treatment toward the complaining spouse of a nature that renders further living together insupportable.”

Abandonment

If one spouse has voluntarily left the other spouse, a court may grant a divorce on the grounds of abandonment. In order to be granted a divorce based on this reason, the spouse must have stayed away for at least one year and have left with the intention of abandonment.

On top of that, the spouse also must not be planning on returning to live with his or her spouse.

This one-year period needs to be continuous for a divorce to be granted on the grounds of abandonment. Basically, if your spouse has left you for eleven months and returns for a few brief nights, the clock on the one-year period could entirely restart. That being said, a court may still grant a divorce on these grounds if the spouse showed back up at home with no intention of continuing to live with the complaining spouse.

Felony Criminal Conviction

A person can also file for a fault-based divorce in Texas if their spouse is convicted of a felony, regardless of whether it was at the state or federal level. The following must be true for a court to grant a divorce on the grounds of conviction of a felony:

  • The individual has been convicted of a felony
  • The individual has been imprisoned in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the penitentiary of another state, or a federal penitentiary for at least one year
  • The individual hasn’t received a pardon

Additionally, a divorce cannot be granted on these grounds if the spouse that was convicted of a felony was convicted based on the other spouse’s testimony. Of course, that doesn’t mean that this couple can’t be granted a divorce. The complaining spouse will simply have to file based on other grounds, such as insupportability or cruelty, depending on what is applicable in the situation.

If you are filing for divorce on fault-based grounds, you will probably want to get a lawyer. The same is true if your spouse has filed for divorce on fault-based grounds. If you believe your divorce is going to be a no-fault, uncontested divorce, however, you might be a good contender for getting divorced without a lawyer in Texas.

Understanding Contested and Uncontested Divorce in Texas

Divorces in Texas can either be uncontested or contested. Uncontested divorces occur when both parties agree to the terms of the divorce or when a party asks the court for a default divorce. Contested divorces, on the other hand, occur when the parties don’t agree on all of the major issues related to the case.

It is possible for an uncontested divorce to either be a fault or a no-fault divorce. However, they are more commonly no-fault divorces.

Contested divorces, as well, can be filed based on fault-based grounds or no-fault grounds.

What Are the Most Common Reasons For Divorce?

There are many different factors that can contribute to divorce, and there might not be one simple reason why a particular marriage falls apart.

That being said, there are some causes of divorce that are more common than others.

One study from the University of Denver involved fifty-two individuals that had been involved with a “prevention and relationship enhancement program” known as PREP. This is a program that focused on helping couples learn conflict resolution skills and communication skills.

The course initially took place before the couples got married. Fourteen years after the program occurred, researchers surveyed the individuals that ended up getting divorced.

According to this small but fascinating study, the most common reasons for divorce are as follows:

  1. Lack of commitment
  2. Extramarital affairs or infidelity
  3. Too much conflict
  4. Getting married too young
  5. Financial difficulties
  6. Substance abuse
  7. Domestic violence
  8. Health problems
  9. Lack of family support
  10. Religious differences or little or no premarital education

A Brief History of No-Fault Divorce in the U.S.

For much of American history, divorce was considered to be against the public interest. For this reason, divorces wouldn’t be granted by courts except if one spouse had “betrayed the innocent spouse.” The spouse that was asking for a divorce, therefore, needed to prove a “fault” such as adultery, cruelty, or abandonment.

If two people wished to get divorced but neither was at fault, however, they were not granted a divorce. On top of that, if two people were found to both be guilty of marital misconduct, they would also not be allowed to “escape the bonds of marriage.”

If it was found that the spouses conspired to make up grounds for divorce, divorce was also not allowed.

Since divorce isn’t governed by federal law and is instead governed by state law, the evolution of divorce laws differs from state to state.

There is a fascinating history of divorce in the U.S. that involves complex means of bypassing the fault system. In the early 20th century, Reno, Nevada was considered the divorce capital of the world because the residency requirements were minimal and the courts would often accept uncorroborated assertions of fault in divorce. In New York State, it was fairly easy to get a divorce on the grounds of adultery, and some Americans even went to Mexico or Haiti in order to be granted a divorce.

Even if bypassing the fault system wasn’t particularly common, it became a cause for widespread concern by the 1960s. The American Bar Association created a Family Law section in a number of different state courts at the urging of the National Association of Women Lawyers.

California became the first state in the United States to pass a no-fault divorce law in 1969. Over time, the rest of the U.S. states followed suit and now all fifty states allow for no-fault divorce.

There was an increase in divorces during the 1970s following the introduction of no-fault divorce.

These days, the median length of an American marriage is eleven years. While it’s common to hear nightmare divorce stories where a lengthy battle played out in court, the truth is that 90% of divorces are settled out of court in the U.S.

Is It Worth Filing For a Fault-Based Divorce in Texas?

There are a number of benefits to filing for a no-fault divorce in Texas, including the fact that this type of divorce is:

  • Less expensive than a fault-based divorce
  • Doesn’t require that you prove to the court that the marriage is irreparable
  • Less time-consuming and more straightforward
  • Less likely to stir up conflict between you and your spouse
  • Less emotionally taxing
  • Less stressful
  • More likely to be finalized in a timely manner

If you are interested in filing for a fault-based divorce in Texas, you will definitely want to consult with an experienced lawyer that you trust. They will help you understand the potential pros and cons of going this route in your particular case.

How Can Filing For a Fault-Based Divorce Impact the Outcome of the Divorce?

If you file for divorce on fault-based grounds and your spouse is found to be guilty of misconduct, it could possibly result in the court dividing your marital property in an inequitable way.

However, if you have children involved in the marriage, you’ll want to know that proving fault during the marriage won’t impact the child custody rights your spouse has. This is because the child custody rights of a parent are considered to be separate and apart from the dissolution of the marriage in the eyes of Texas law.

Even if the court agrees that your spouse is at fault in a divorce case, it also won’t impact the obligation of a parent to pay child support or the right of a parent to receive child support.

The Decision to End a Marriage Is Never Easy

Relationships are incredibly complicated, and even the healthiest of marriages experience extreme highs and lows. If you have considered getting divorced, you can find some solace knowing that you aren’t alone. According to a 2015 poll from the Institute for Family Studies, somewhere around half of all married couples have contemplated divorce.

If you’re thinking about getting divorced, you might have a long list of reasons why you feel the marriage isn’t salvageable. You don’t have to worry about proving your marriage is irreconcilable to the court if you file for a no-fault divorce based on the grounds of insupportability.

In some cases, it could be appropriate to file for fault-based grounds for divorce. However, this is a decision that you’ll want to take very seriously and discuss with your lawyer at length. Divorce is hard enough as it is, and having to go through the process of proving your spouse’s adultery, cruelty, or other misconduct can exacerbate the difficulty of the situation– as well as make it longer and more expensive.

If you’re thinking about divorce, learning more about the process can be very useful. For more information about dissolving your marriage in the Lone Star State, check out our articles about divorce in Texas.

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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