Learning how to do your own divorce in Texas can potentially save you thousands of dollars on attorney fees. At the same time, hiring a lawyer might be money well spent if your finances are complicated or the divorce is contested.
If you feel comfortable representing yourself in your divorce case, the process involves filing a petition for divorce and supporting documents, serving your spouse or having them sign a Waiver of Service Only form, creating a marital settlement agreement, and having a judge sign off on your Final Decree of Divorce.
What does the process look like if you file for a DIY divorce in Texas without a lawyer? Let’s look at the basic steps involved.
In order to file for divorce in Texas, you will need to meet the residency requirements.
While there are a few exceptions for military families and public servants, both of the following need to be true if you want to get a Texas divorce:
The specific divorce forms you will need to do your own divorce in Texas will vary depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, there will be different paperwork if you have minor children than if you don't have children.
In addition to collecting all of the forms you will need to file for divorce, you’ll also want to gather documents about your finances and anything else that will be pertinent to the divorce. Locating and organizing the documents ahead of time can make the process less stressful and go more smoothly.
The divorce process officially begins when you file your Original Petition for Divorce. There are some important decisions you will need to make before you can do this, such as whether you can file for an uncontested divorce. This is the simplest way to get divorced, as it means that you and your spouse have reached an agreement about all divorce-related issues.
If you are able to file for an uncontested divorce, one of the supporting documents you will file is your divorce settlement agreement. This document will outline the division of assets and any other terms you have agreed to, such as spousal maintenance, child custody, and child support. If you have minor children, you will also need to include a “suit affecting the parent-child relationship” along with your petition for divorce.
When you file, you will also have to select the legally recognized reason you are getting divorced, known as the grounds for divorce. You can get a no-fault or a fault-based divorce in Texas. Even if you believe that your spouse is responsible for the dissolution of the marriage, it is often advantageous to file a no-fault divorce to reduce complexity. When you file for a fault-based divorce, you are burdened with providing proof that your spouse is responsible for the breakdown of the relationship.
If you feel that filing for a fault-based divorce is the right choice for you, it might be best to work with a lawyer rather than doing your own divorce.
Once you have filed your paperwork with the courthouse in your county, you will need to serve your spouse to notify them that the divorce process has been initiated officially. Your spouse can either file a Respondent’s Original Answer form or complete a Waiver of Service Only form.
There is a sixty-day waiting period that applies in almost all Texas divorces.
This means that once the petition for divorce is filed, a judge cannot grant you a divorce until sixty days have passed. You can continue taking action toward your divorce, but it cannot be finalized until the waiting period is over.
You and your spouse will complete a Final Decree of Divorce if you are getting an uncontested divorce on your own. It’s important to fill out the entire form and not leave any sections blank except for the spot for the judge to sign.
Once the waiting period is over, you can go to court to finish up the process. You will need to attest to a handful of facts about yourself and your situation in order to finalize your divorce.
So long as you and your spouse can show a judge that you have distributed property and debt fairly and that any issues related to children are in the best interest of the kids, they will likely sign your decree.
You will need to bring your Original Petition, a file-stamped copy of the Respondent's Answer or their Waiver of Service Only form, as well as your Divorce Decree.
If you have minor children, additional documents might be necessary.
Once the judge has signed your Final Decree of Divorce, you will go file it with the court clerk. Congratulations– your divorce is final!
If you are filing for divorce without a lawyer, it means you are considered a Pro Se litigant in your divorce case. “Pro Se” is a Latin term that means “in one’s own behalf.” Essentially, it means that you are representing yourself in the case rather than hiring an attorney.
Generally, getting a Pro Se or DIY divorce is only recommended if there are no contested issues or complex circumstances involving assets, debts, and children.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to do your own divorce in Texas is the potential savings. Instead of costing several thousand dollars, a DIY divorce typically only costs a few hundred dollars. Generally, you will only need to pay the filing fees and a few other related court fees.
Check out our guide to the cost of divorce to learn more.
Saving money during your divorce is great, but not everyone is a good candidate for a Pro Se divorce. In some instances, working with a lawyer will help to protect your interests and the interests of your children.
If any of the following is true, you should consider hiring an attorney rather than going it alone:
If you aren’t sure whether or not you can handle getting a divorce on your own, you might consider setting up some consultation appointments with divorce lawyers in your area. Meeting with a few different attorneys can help you get a range of perspectives on how complex your case will be. Additionally, you might find that hiring a lawyer for a few select tasks, such as going over your paperwork before you file, is a cost-effective way to make sure everything goes smoothly in your divorce.
For more resources about getting divorced in Texas, check out our Texas family law blog.