Texas Divorce Laws

Texas Divorce Checklist: What to Include in Your Divorce Preparation Checklist

By:
Sophia Merton
Updated
June 2, 2022

Have you ever heard the quote “an hour of planning can save you ten hours of doing”? When it comes to getting ready for a divorce, this advice is spot on. In order to help you get and stay organized as you prepare for divorce, we’ve created this Texas divorce checklist.

We’ve talked at length in other posts about topics ranging from how to file for a divorce without a lawyer in Texas to what you should expect from a contested divorce.

There’s a lot of planning and preparation that can happen before you file your divorce petition, though, and a lot of things to consider outside of the realm of lawyers, judges, and courts.

Let’s take a look at what to include in your divorce preparation checklist so you can tackle this thing from all angles.

First Things First: The Importance of Being Organized

folder organization for preparing for texas divorce

Getting organized is essential to having the most stress-free divorce possible.

There’s no way to entirely avoid the stress of divorce, but being organized and prepared can go a long way. Resist the urge to procrastinate the tasks that will be necessary to complete your divorce in a swift manner. Instead, you’ll want to approach this as a project where the more organized you are, the quicker and more painless the process will be.

If you leave everything to the last minute, your divorce won’t just be more stressful but you might not end up with the outcome that works best for you.

Build a Network For Holistic Support

building support network as preparation for texas divorce

It's important to have a support network you can lean on during and after the divorce process.

We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of gathering financial and legal documents a little later on, but one of the most important items on your checklist is going to be building a team of people you can rely on. While this includes lawyers, it’s essential that you don’t overlook the more personal needs you’ll have during this time.

Divorce is not just a legal process, it is something that impacts every corner of your life. If you treat it like a business deal, the reality is that you won’t be seeing it from a holistic perspective.

Emotional

It should come as no surprise to you that getting divorced can be an incredibly emotional experience. It’s great to have close family members or friends that you can lean on when you are feeling distraught, sad, overwhelmed, or fearful.

At the same time, it might be a good idea to reach out to a minister, spiritual advisor, or professional counselor. This can be particularly important if you have dealt with major trauma, whether or not that trauma has anything to do with the spouse you’re getting divorced from.

Physical

According to a 2017 article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 75%-90% of human diseases are related to the stress system being activated. You might think that being stressed out is primarily a concern for your mental health, but that’s actually far from the truth. Our bodies know how to deal with small doses of stress, but long-term stress can affect every system of your body.

If you are suffering from chronic stress, it puts you at a higher risk of developing a number of health problems, including:

  1. Digestive issues
  2. Anxiety
  3. Muscle tension and pain
  4. Headaches
  5. Depression
  6. Weight gain
  7. Heart attack, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure
  8. Concentration and memory issues

Considering that divorce is considered to be one of the most stressful life events you can go through, it isn’t overkill to assume you should put stress management and your physical health on the top rung of your prioritization ladder.

There are a lot of things you can do to keep your physical body in good shape and your stress levels under control during the divorce process. While everyone can benefit from getting exercise, eating nutritious foods, and learning to manage stress, you can also find activities that you enjoy that support your physical health. Some options include:

  • Exercise: Walking, running, biking, weightlifting, tennis, dancing, etc.
  • Maintain a healthy diet: Avoid highly processed foods and drinks and focus on nutrient-dense foods
  • Look away from the screen: Make sure you aren’t spending all of your free time in front of a TV, computer, tablet, or phone, as this is associated with increased stress and lower psychological well-being for both kids and adults
  • Practice self-care: Take a bath, practice yoga, read books, get out into nature, pick up a hobby, get a massage, etc.
  • Spend time with your loved ones: Having a strong social support system is essential to keeping your stress in check, particularly during difficult times like a divorce
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness practices can help improve mood and reduce stress levels
  • Get outside: Nothing boosts your mood and reduces stress quite like spending more time outside in nature
  • Starting a breathing practice: Learn some breathing exercises and make them a part of your routine or use them when you’re feeling stressed
  • Prioritize good sleep: Getting enough, high-quality sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health

It might seem a bit much to focus so much on physical health and stress reduction in an article about what to include in your divorce preparation checklist. However, your mental and physical health is the foundation on which all of the other aspects of the process will stand.

Financial

Depending on your financial situation, you might want to talk to a financial planner. If you and your spouse don’t have any assets or debts, this might not be necessary. However, you want to make sure that you both understand the financial implications of divorce and are able to make a plan ahead of time when it comes to your financial future on your own.

Legal

It is possible to get divorced without a lawyer in Texas, but it’s only really recommended in certain circumstances. For example, if you and your spouse are going through a truly amicable divorce where you agree on all of the terms, don’t have particularly complicated finances, and don’t have children, filing for and obtaining a divorce can be fairly straightforward.

You’ll want to avoid the temptation to refrain from getting a lawyer just to save money, though. In all but the simplest of divorces, having experienced legal counsel can mean the difference between a reasonable outcome from the divorce and a disastrous one.

That being said, the more you and your spouse can agree on regarding the terms of your divorce, the less expensive hiring a lawyer will be. While it’s perfectly natural to feel hurt, angry, and betrayed when you’re faced with a divorce, it’s best to avoid the urge to wage war against your ex with your lawyer as a weapon.

Spiritual

The divorce process can feel so litigious and financially focused that the personal and spiritual aspects of what it means to end a marriage can get put on the backburner.

When your marriage ends, it can turn your world upside down. You can lose faith in things you once believed in and question your own judgment or worth. You might find that everything that was once certain now seems suspect. There is tremendous potential for growth in these difficult times, but it's a good idea to find people who you feel can help support you spiritually before, during, and after your divorce.

Determine When to Discuss the Divorce

couple preparing to discuss divorce in texas

It's a good idea to be thoughtful about when, where, and how you bring up the topic of divorce.

If you’ve decided you’re getting a divorce but haven’t told your spouse yet, you’ll want to put some thought into how you’re going to bring the topic up as well as the appropriate time and place to do so. It’s probably not a good idea to tell your husband or wife that you want a divorce on their birthday, Christmas, or an anniversary, for example.

It’s sometimes recommended to discuss divorce in a neutral place. This can avoid the distractions and loaded memories of your home environment.

Make Plans For a New Parenting Arrangement

mom with two kids outside in new parenting arrangement after texas divorce

It's never too soon to start thinking about how you and your spouse will divide parenting duties once you're divorced.

If you have children, you’ll need to start thinking about what your new parenting arrangement will look like. In a best-case scenario, you and your spouse will agree on this arrangement so that the courts don’t have to decide for you.

Collect Personal Information

Getting divorced is going to require that you fill out a bunch of forms with tons of personal information. When you know that you’re going to be getting a divorce, no time is too early to start collecting and organizing this information.

The information you’ll need for both you and your spouse include:

  • Full legal name
  • Birthdate
  • Social security number
  • Address where legal papers can be sent or served
  • Employer’s name and contact information
  • Hourly wage or salary
  • Length of employment

For yourself, you might need to have proof of state residency. In the state of Texas, one of the following documents can be provided as proof of domicile:

  • Certificate of marriage with a Texas resident
  • Documents of real estate ownership (either owned just by you or shared with your spouse)
  • Self-employment earnings statement or employment verification
  • Document of business ownership in Texas

In addition, you’ll have to prove your physical Texas residency with another document from this list. It’s also possible to get a witness to testify in writing that you live in the state of Texas.

You’ll also want to gather your usernames and passwords to all of your online accounts. As we’ll mention later, it’s probably a good idea to change all of your passwords to ensure your finances and personal information are secure.

You’ll also need to gather marital information to share with your attorney. This may include:

  • When and where you were married
  • Copies of past marriage and divorce certificates including the reason for previous divorces
  • The reason for your current divorce
  • If and when you and your spouse went to marriage counseling
  • The names of the people that signed your marriage license

When providing this information to your lawyer, it’s best to keep it on-point and businesslike. Even if the reasons behind your divorce are painful, venting is often best saved for discussions with a therapist or your close personal support network.

If you have already started your divorce and there are temporary orders in place, you’ll want to have the following documents nearby:

  • Child custody order
  • Restraining order
  • Prenup or postnup agreement
  • Separation agreement
  • Visitation order

You also might need to collect information about your children. Children that are under eighteen or adult children that are over eighteen if::

  • They have a mental or physical disability and are not capable of self-support, therefore requiring substantial personal supervision and care
  • The disability exists or is known to exist on or before the child turns eighteen

For children that fall within these categories, You’re going to need personal information including:

  • Full name and birthdate
  • Birth certificate and social security card
  • Medical history, special care instructions, allergy information, and medications
  • A description of current childcare arrangements
  • A description of current custody arrangements as well as addresses for where visitation occurs
  • Contact info for their school, daycare or caretaker, doctors
  • An accurate list of expenses
  • Amount of child support you have already paid or received
  • Adoption records if applicable
  • The policy number and policyholder’s name for your children’s health insurance
  • A calendar of custody handoffs and visitation times

If your spouse is making it difficult to collect information about your children or themselves, work with your lawyer to obtain the necessary documents and info.

Inventory Your Personal Property

You’re going to need to inventory the property that you own individually as well as the property that you own jointly with your spouse. You’ll want to list the name of each item along with its value. Take pictures of your belongings as proof and gather any relevant paperwork.

The types of property that you might put in your inventory include:

  • Houses and land
  • Vehicles
  • Household items
  • Machinery
  • Personal items (including antiques, jewelry, collectibles, and items of sentimental value)
  • Pets and livestock

You’ll want to focus on the items that are most valuable and that you are most interested in protecting. For smaller items, you can group them together and don’t have to go crazy assessing their value. For your items of value, you can either get a professional appraisal or conduct your own online research to estimate value.

Gather the Necessary Legal Documents

You’ll also need a bunch of legal documents as a part of the divorce process. If you’re struggling to gain access to documents because your spouse is being difficult, work with your lawyer to get what you need. Depending on your situation, you might need additional documents or you might not require all of the documents listed below.

Taxes

  • State Tax Return
  • Federal Tax Return
  • Tax Liens
  • W2
  • All other IRS related documents

Insurance Policies

  • Name of the insurance company
  • Policy Number
  • Date of Issue
  • Designated beneficiary
  • Face amount
  • Type of insurance (whole/term/universal)
  • Amount of monthly premiums
  • Current surrender value
  • Cash surrender value
  • Other policies and amendments

You’ll want to make sure you make any necessary updates to your insurance policies. For health insurance, you probably won’t be able to make changes to existing insurance until the divorce has been finalized.

Liabilities

Your liabilities include any credit card debt, mortgages, vehicle loans, student loans, personal loans, or other debts you have either alone or with your spouse.

  • Name of entity, address, and telephone number
  • Account number
  • Most current statements and account status of lenders (from last 3 years)
  • Property securing payment (if it’s a secured loan such as a mortgage or auto loan)
  • Monthly payment
  • Amount owed

End of Life Plans

  • Will
  • Advanced healthcare directives
  • Power of attorney

You’ll want to update your will and power of attorney as a part of the divorce process.

Businesses

Whether you own a business, your spouse owns a business, or you own it jointly, you’ll need to gather legal documents about the business.

  • Trademarks, registrations, or patents
  • Tax returns
  • Receipts
  • Payroll information
  • Name of business
  • Type of business
  • Address
  • Number of shares owned (if applicable)
  • Value of shares (if applicable)
  • Percentage of ownership
  • Balance of liabilities
  • Cash flow reports
  • Balance of accounts receivables
  • List of company assets

If you haven’t already, you’ll also want to collect your marriage license and any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements you’ve made.

You can learn about the Texas divorce forms you’ll need in this article.

Get Your Finances in Order

Unfortunately, arguments over money are one of the most common reasons that people get divorced. You’ll likely face a lot of financial changes after divorce, so it’s a good idea to get organized and make a plan as soon as possible.

Gather Financial Documents

With your personal information and legal document collection, you’ve already gathered some important financial information. However, you’ll also want to collect information regarding:

  • Bank account numbers and current statements
  • List of any cash you have in your home
  • Health savings account numbers and current statements
  • Credit reports
  • Mortgage debt and HELOCs
  • Inheritance amounts before or after marriage
  • Personal loans
  • Non-mortgage debt
  • Retirement accounts

This is a good time to collect all of your login information for your financial accounts. Take the time to change your passwords if you are worried about your spouse maliciously accessing your accounts.

For all of your legal, financial, and personal documents, consult with your lawyer about what will be required in your particular circumstance.

Understand What It Means For Texas to Be a Community Property State

Texas is only one of nine states that is a community property state. This means that, in general, any property you acquired as a couple when you were married is considered to be equally owned by both of you. Talk with your lawyer to understand the implications of this when it comes to the division of assets in your divorce.

Build an Emergency Fund

Divorce brings about many changes, including financial ones. It’s a good idea to start building your own emergency fund as soon as you know you’re getting divorced. This way, you can transition as seamlessly as possible after the divorce is finalized.

Create a Budget

If you’re stressed about the cost of divorce, sit down and make a budget. Creating (and sticking to) a budget can help remove some of the anxiety surrounding finances during this time.

Start Separating Your Finances

There’s a difference between opening a new bank account when you realize you’re getting divorced and cleaning out a shared bank account and moving it into one with just your name on it. Work with your lawyer if you want to start separating your finances to make sure you’re staying within the bounds of the law.

Protect Your Credit

In a community property state like Texas, you and your spouse are equally responsible for the debts you picked up when you were married. Even if your spouse is ordered to pay off a debt in a divorce decree, creditors can come after you if they fail to pay. Work with a financial planner and your lawyer to make sure your credit is protected.

Determine Your New Living Situation

Another important decision is whether you and your spouse will continue living together until the divorce is finalized. In general, though, one of you will need to move out. You’ll want to be realistic about your new financial situation to ensure that your post-divorce living situation is one that is affordable and sustainable.

Decide Whether You Can Avoid Divorce Court

If possible, you’ll want to avoid divorce court. The best-case scenario is getting an agreed divorce in the state of Texas, but that might not be feasible for you. Regardless, it’s a good idea to understand the different options when it comes to getting a divorce including their cost and typical timeline.

Are You Getting Divorced in Texas?

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “knowledge is the antidote to fear.” If you’re feeling anxious or afraid in regards to your Texas divorce, one of the best things you can do is to educate yourself about the laws surrounding marriage and divorce in the Lone Star State. If you have questions and you’re searching for answers, check out our library of resources at 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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