Getting a divorce can be emotionally taxing, stressful, and expensive. For this reason, many individuals undergoing a divorce want to get the process over with as quickly as possible so they can move on with their lives. If you’re a resident of the Lone Star State, you might be asking: how long does a divorce take in Texas?
The average length of time it takes for the entire divorce process in the U.S. is twelve months. Some states, such as New Jersey, don’t have a mandatory waiting period which can allow divorces to reach completion much faster. Other states have lengthy required waiting periods. For example, California’s waiting period is a full six months.
How long a divorce takes isn’t just a matter of state law, though. It also has to do with whether there are children involved, whether there are significant marital assets, and whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. Of course, you can expect a lengthier and more complex divorce to also be more expensive.
Let’s take a look at how long divorce typically takes in Texas, and what you can do to ensure that it doesn’t drag on any longer than necessary.
In the state of Texas, there is a mandatory sixty-day waiting period for divorces. This means that, if everything went perfectly, the fastest possible divorce you can get in Texas would take sixty-one days.
If we’re being more realistic, though, most couples will have to wait longer than that for a divorce to be finalized in the Lone Star State. In most cases, it takes between six and twelve months for couples to be granted a divorce.
Divorces typically take longer when there are children involved and when you and your spouse have significant marital assets.
Every divorce is different, as the process is informed by your particular circumstance. If you’re interested to learn what the average divorce process looks like, we’re about to break down the different steps in the process and how long they typically take.
There are two primary steps to pre-filing for a divorce. The first is making your final decision regarding whether divorce is the right step for you. The second is whether you are planning on working with a lawyer and, if so, choosing the attorney you’d like to hire.
As discussed in our article about the cost of divorce in Texas, it is typically recommended that you work with a lawyer in some capacity when you are getting a divorce. In some instances, though, you might be able to save money by taking a DIY approach to divorce.
If you do choose to hire a lawyer, you can work with them to get your finances in order and set yourself up to be protected before divorce papers are filed. During this period, you can also come to a decision about what your requests are when it comes to custody and assets.
Depending on your circumstance, this pre-filing period could be much shorter or much longer than average. Typically, though, this part of the process takes a few weeks.
When you are ready to file for divorce, you and your attorney can file a petition with the court requesting a dissolution of the marriage. Your requests in terms of child support, property division, and alimony will be listed on this petition if they are applicable in your case.
You can file this paperwork without a lawyer, but you’ll want to be certain that you don’t make costly mistakes in the process.
In Texas, either spouse can be the Petitioner in this process. However, they need to have been a resident in the county where they filed for the last ninety days and a Texas resident for at least six months.
In general, this part of the process only takes a few days.
Once you file your petition, a mandatory waiting period of sixty days begins. In cases that involve domestic violence, a waiver might be granted. Most couples, though, will need to wait until this roughly two-month period has passed in order to complete their divorce.
This doesn’t mean that cases can’t move forward during this time, however. The non-petitioning party can still respond during this time and the case can otherwise continue unfolding.
The state of Texas doesn’t require any sort of legal or physical separation before one party files for divorce. Instead, they enforce a sixty-day waiting period to help ensure that the decision isn’t being made in haste.
Some legal experts recommend that you shouldn’t separate or move out immediately during this period. Instead, it might be advisable to continue staying in the house and upholding your household position. This is particularly important if there are children involved in the marriage.
Once the Petitioner has filed a petition for a divorce with the court, the other spouse will be served the petition. This spouse is referred to as the Respondent. The Respondent can receive the petition through a number of different methods, with different counties allowing different strategies. These might include serving the documents via certified mail, delivery service, publication, or by placing them in a place where they will be found.
The divorce process can take longer if you don’t know where your spouse is. Respondents have between twenty and twenty-eight days to respond to the petition. Their response can include asking for an extension to allow more time to reach an agreement, contesting the demands, or accepting the demands.
If you are involved in a contested divorce, this part of the process can take anywhere from a few months to years. In this instance, both spouses will work with their lawyers to collect evidence that supports both their reasoning and their claims. It isn’t uncommon for each spouses’ attorney to meet and work to come to an agreement before the case gets to court.
If there still isn’t an agreement at this point, the case will theoretically go to trial. However, a common tactic is for one party’s attorney to continuously push back the court date. This can cause a divorce to drag on for years. This is one of the main reasons that many couples try to resolve any disputes they have without the involvement of the courts.
There also might be temporary orders granted by a judge in more complex divorce cases. These orders can outline things such as who will spend time with the children, who will stay in the family home, and temporary spousal or child support payments. This part of the process can take several weeks.
Finally, you have reached the point where a judgment will be declared. This hearing is typically scheduled far in advance. Depending on how much evidence there is to present, this part of the process can take a few days.
As you can see, the range for how long it takes to get a divorce in Texas is pretty wide. While some couples can get their divorce finalized in six months or less, others might go through a brutal contested divorce that drags on for years.
Even if you aren’t in a nightmare divorce scenario, though, there are some factors that will simply make your divorce more complicated and, therefore, take longer.
Some variables that will typically lengthen the divorce process include:
If any of these factors are true for you, you likely won’t be able to complete the divorce process as quickly as a couple whose circumstance doesn’t involve any of those variables.
Another factor that can increase the timeline for a divorce in Texas is the grounds for divorce that are filed. There are seven grounds for divorce in Texas, which are:
Divorces filed on the grounds of insupportability can typically move along more quickly than any of the other grounds for divorce. The reason for this is that the other grounds are considered fault-based reasons. This means needing to prove fault to the court, which can make the process take longer.
The method that you use to resolve any disputes can also impact how long it takes to get a divorce.
Some couples opt for divorce mediation, while others might go through a collaborative divorce. How long these processes take depends on how quickly you are able to come to an agreement. If you choose to use traditional litigation, you should know that you are choosing the longest and likely most expensive option. That being said, other routes such as collaborative divorce can also get pretty pricey and lengthen the process, as this is ultimately a fusion of mediation and litigation.
Divorce petitions don’t expire in the state of Texas. However, most Texas courts have a “dismissal docket.” This means that any cases that have little or no activity over a certain age is set for dismissal. In these instances, a firm trial date must be set and a Motion to Retain needs to be filed.
If these actions aren’t taken, the case will then be deemed “dismissed for want of prosecution” (DWOP). What this means is that the petition has effectively expired, even though a divorce petition never legally expires. If you want to reactive the divorce process at this point, you will have to start the entire process over from scratch.
As discussed above, contested divorces can take quite a bit longer than uncontested or agreed divorces. As there are a lot of different issues that can be involved in a contested divorce, there is no set length of time for this type of divorce. How long it takes depends on how long it takes you and your spouse, your lawyers, or the courts to reach an agreement or decision.
If you enter into a contested divorce, settlement negotiations alone can take many months. If an agreement can’t be reached, the next step is going to trial. Ultimately, contested divorces can take anywhere from several months to several years depending on the circumstances.
If you and your spouse can agree on all divorce-related issues, you might qualify for an uncontested or “agreed” divorce. This process can be less expensive as well as less adversarial.
In order to file an uncontested divorce, both parties must sign an agreement stating that they are willing to skip the trial process involving a judge. Contested divorces, on the other hand, are quite a bit more expensive because the court gets involved in decisions about the division of marital property, spousal support, and more.
In order to qualify for an agreed divorce in Texas, you will need to meet the following criteria:
If you are in a situation where a final order has already been issued by the court in relation to child support or custody, you still might be able to request an agreed divorce. However, you can only do so if:
It’s worth noting that uncontested or agreed divorces in Texas can only be successfully filed for certain grounds for divorce. You will need to file using the “no-fault” divorce option based on reasons of living apart or “insupportability.” Insupportability is often referred to in other states as “irreconcilable differences.”
If you qualify for an uncontested divorce, you are still subject to the sixty-day waiting period unless a waiver is issued. Theoretically, uncontested divorces could be completed in as little as two months. Typically, though it takes between three and four months for agreed divorces to be finalized.
It’s usually a good idea to consult with an attorney before you choose to undergo an uncontested divorce, and many people benefit from having a lawyer assist them in the process even if there are no contested issues at hand. If you have a limited budget, you might consider setting up a limited scope representation agreement, where you can have access to a limited amount of legal assistance at a lower cost.
If you are looking to minimize the time, money, and stress involved in getting divorced, filing for an uncontested divorce without the help of a lawyer might be a reasonable option. However, an uncontested divorce might only be a realistic option if you and your spouse don’t have any minor children, real property, or assets in addition to being in agreement regarding all divorce-related issues.
If this is the case, you don’t necessarily need to hire an attorney which could save you quite a bit of money. However, it’s important that you understand the potential ramifications of undergoing a divorce without the assistance of a lawyer, especially if you are making decisions about shared assets, property, or child custody and support.
If you are planning on representing yourself in an uncontested family law hearing, you will want to tell the court coordinator that you are handling the case pro se (without an attorney.) It’s important to communicate this information because different counties have different approaches to uncontested divorces of pro se litigants.
Another type of divorce we haven’t discussed yet is a default divorce. This is the name of the process that occurs if your souse doesn’t respond after you’ve served them with divorce documents.
The Respondent typically has between twenty and twenty-eight days to respond. However, if they don’t respond by the end of this time period, you are still subject to the sixty-day waiting period. This means that they can still choose to respond at any time before the end of this waiting period.
Even if it has been communicated to you that your spouse has no interest in participating in the divorce process, you will have to wait the full sixty days before the divorce is finalized. Texas law does offer a few exceptions, which include:
You can otherwise only pursue a divorce by default if you have allowed your spouse the twenty-day response period and the initial sixty-day waiting period has also passed. There is also a ten-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized, the clock on which begins running when the court-appointed person that serves your spouse files a timestamped “Return of Service” form.
Basically, a default divorce will take at least two months and likely longer. Depending on the circumstances, it can take longer than that.
If you’ve decided to get divorced, you are likely scrambling to learn as much about the process as possible. Understanding how long a Texas divorce takes, how much it will cost, and other important information is probably foremost on your mind.
At Texas Divorce Laws, we are committed to compiling all of the most relevant information related to divorce in the state of Texas. Being knowledgeable about your rights and the process itself can make a huge difference in how lengthy, expensive, and difficult the divorce process is for you. That’s why we’re creating an ever-expanding library of resources about Texas divorce law, to ensure that you are armed with the power of information. For more useful articles, be sure to check out the rest of our blogs.