Texas Divorce Laws

Is Texas a No-Fault Divorce State?

By:
Sophia Merton
Updated
April 8, 2022

In the United States, every state plus Washington D.C. allows couples to get no-fault divorces, though the requirements vary between states. Additionally, some states are true no-fault states, where you aren’t allowed to allege a fault-based ground, while others only offer no-fault grounds as an option. Is Texas a no-fault divorce state, or are you also allowed to file for a fault-based divorce?

Spouses in the state of Texas can choose between no-fault grounds and fault-based grounds. However, even if you feel that your partner is to blame for the end of the marriage, filing on fault-based grounds isn’t always necessarily the best choice.

This is because fault-based divorces tend to be more expensive, more time-consuming, and more stressful. If you are accusing your spouse of fault that falls within the normal bounds of having irreconcilable differences, you will likely struggle to prove to a court their fault in the matter.

That being said, there are certain situations where fault-based divorces might be the right choice for you. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about fault and no-fault divorce in the state of Texas.

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

two people discussing divorce in texas

In the state of Texas, divorcing couples can file for a no-fault divorce or they can file on fault-based grounds.

All states in the United States allow for some form of “no-fault” divorce, though the requirements can vary quite a bit by state. In addition to allowing no-fault divorce, some states also permit fault-based grounds for divorce.

What Is a No-Fault Divorce?

A no-fault divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage based on an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” or “irreconcilable differences.” These phrases basically indicate that the couple is unable to get along and there is no chance that they will be able to make their marriage work.

If you are filing for divorce in a no-fault state, it means that you don’t have to inform the court of the reasoning behind the divorce or prove that your spouse is to blame for the breakup. You simply have to tell them that you have irreconcilable differences or another synonymous phrase.

In a no-fault divorce, the courts won’t take either spouse’s misconduct into consideration when determining whether or not the divorce should be granted. This means that you don’t need to try and prove that your spouse was engaged in some sort of bad behavior.

What Is a Fault Divorce?

In a fault divorce, on the other hand, one spouse in a marriage can argue that the other spouse behaved in a way that led to the failure of the marriage. In about two-thirds of U.S. states, couples still have the ability to file for divorce on the basis of the other spouse’s actions.

In each state that allows for fault divorce, there are different rules regarding which grounds can be used for divorce. Some of the most common grounds that can be found in the U.S. include abandonment, substance abuse, adultery, or a felony conviction.

Is Texas a No-Fault Divorce State?

texas flag in no fault divorce state

Texas isn't a "true" no-fault state because it does give the option of filing on fault-based grounds.

Since New York state passed its no-fault divorce law back in 2010, every state offers some option when it comes to no-fault divorce. This makes it a lot simpler for couples to get divorced all across the country. That being said, the laws differ depending on which state you’re in.

Even though all states offer a no-fault option, you can ultimately divide the U.S. states into two categories. These are states that offer pure no-fault divorces and states that have the option of no-fault divorce.

There are seventeen U.S. states (plus D.C.) that could be considered pure or true no-fault states. This means that people who are getting a divorce in these states have only one option: a no-fault divorce.

In these states, a spouse's conduct doesn’t have any relevance in the court’s decision about whether or not they will grant a divorce. Pure no-fault divorce states treat divorce as a contract termination and isn’t there to judge the conduct or morality of either party.

That being said, it’s important to understand that conduct can come into consideration in divorce-related matters, such as child custody and visitation rights.

The seventeen states that only offer no-fault divorces are:

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

In the other thirty-three U.S. states, spouses can choose to file a fault-based divorce. The fault grounds offered in these other states vary substantially. On top of that, how these fault grounds influence the outcome of the divorce can greatly differ depending on the state.

Texas is not one of the pure no-fault states, but it does offer a no-fault divorce option. In the next section, we’ll learn about the grounds for no-fault and fault-based divorce according to Texas law.

What Are the Seven Most Common Grounds for Divorce Allowed Under Texas Law?

The state of Texas offers three options when it comes to no-fault divorce. These are insupportability, living apart, and confinement in a mental institution. They also offer four fault-based grounds for divorce, which are cruelty, adultery, felony conviction, and abandonment. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about the seven grounds for divorce allowed under Texas law.

Since no-fault divorces were introduced in Texas, fault-based divorces have become less common. That being said, it’s important to know what your options are before filing for divorce.

Insupportability

Insupportability simply means that the marriage is no longer working due to conflict or discord. This is one of the no-fault options when it comes to grounds for divorce in the state of Texas. This term is typically only used in divorce law, and is basically synonymous with “incompatibility.” In other states, you might hear this same concept referred to as “irreconcilable differences.”

Many people often mistake this term to mean that one spouse has failed to financially support the other, but that’s not what this ground is for. Instead, it is used to indicate that a marriage is no longer salvageable because of differences and conflicts that cannot be overcome.

Though you don’t have to prove that your spouse is at fault to be granted a no-fault divorce on the grounds of insupportability, you do have to prove that the two of you have irreconcilable differences. Often, this will be provided in the form of sworn testimony or affidavit stating something along the lines of “there is no hope of reconciliation between me and my spouse.”

Living Apart

luggage of divorced couple in texas

Living apart for a certain amount of time is considered grounds for divorce in Texas where no fault is involved.

Another no-fault divorce option in the state of Texas is living apart. If a couple has been living separately for at least three years, they might be granted a no-fault divorce.

Again, no one needs to be proven to be at fault in order to be granted this type of divorce. However, you might have to provide proof beyond simple testimony. For example, you might need to prove that the two of you have been living apart for the entire time and not cohabiting in the same home on and off in the past three years.

Confinement in a Mental Hospital

If one spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for three years or longer, and it seems that their mental health is in a state where they are unlikely to recover in the future. Confinement in a mental hospital is the third no-fault grounds for divorce allowed in the state of Texas.

While fault doesn’t need to be proven in these cases, you might have to bring forward evidence that your spouse has a mental disorder that they’re unlikely to recover from through medical records and other official documents.

Cruelty

The first fault-based ground for divorce in Texas is cruelty. This is when one spouse treats the other party cruelly so that they can no longer live together.

Under Texas law, cruelty is defined as causing pain or suffering willfully. This can be a relatively subjective notion, as one party might believe that the other is being willfully cruel while the other might not see it that way. In order for a judge to grant a fault-based divorce on the grounds of cruelty, they will need to believe that one spouse persistently and willfully inflicted unnecessary suffering on the other.

The suffering endured can be either physical or mental. That being said, a court will not grant a fault-based divorce on the grounds of cruelty when faced with evidence of typical marital disagreements or trivial matters.

Adultery

If one spouse is unfaithful, the other can file for a fault-based divorce on the grounds of adultery. This is a fault-based ground for divorce, and it is the most common fault-based ground for divorce in Texas.

Adultery will need to be proven to the court in order to be granted a divorce on these grounds. This might come in the form of bank statements, text messages, emails, phone records, photos, or videos. To be clear, you don’t need to prove that your spouse actually had sexual intercourse with another person if you are able to provide circumstantial evidence that points to the existence of an affair.

Another point worth noting is that a fault-based judgment can be made against a spouse for adultery even if the act isn’t committed until the divorce has been filed and the couple isn’t living together anymore. For this reason, it’s a good idea to wait to start a new relationship until the divorce is finalized, even if there is no chance that you will be getting back with your spouse.

Felony Criminal Conviction

If one spouse was imprisoned for a felony conviction for at least one year and hasn’t received a pardon, the other partner can file for divorce on fault-based grounds.

Whether the conviction was at the state or federal level doesn’t make any difference in this case. If the conviction of the spouse was based on testimony from the other spouse, however, the divorce won’t be able to grant a divorce on the grounds of a felony criminal conviction. That being said, a divorce can still be granted by the divorce based on insupportability, cruelty, or another ground.

Abandonment

Abandonment is when one spouse has left the other without any intention of returning for at least one year.

This one-year period needs to be continuous in order for a court to grant a divorce based on the grounds of abandonment. The spouse needs to have left voluntarily and have no intention of returning. If the abandoning spouse returns for a few nights and leaves again, the one year clock can start from day one.

Less Common Grounds for Fault-Based Divorce in Texas

There are also less common fault-based grounds for divorce in the state of Texas. This might include cultural or religious differences, financial backing, infertility, homosexuality, impotency, or substance abuse.

What Are the Requirements for Getting a Divorce in Texas?

The petitioner or the respondent must have lived in Texas for the six months preceding filing the divorce petition. They also must have lived in the county where they file the paperwork for the ninety days preceding the filing.

For people who are in the military, their residency is established by where their primary posting location is.

What Are the Benefits of a No-Fault Divorce in Texas?

It is typically cheaper, faster, easier, and less stressful to get a no-fault divorce in Texas than a fault-based divorce. This is particularly true if both spouses collaborate and are able to come to agreements on divorce-related matters without the help of lawyers or the court.

If there are children involved in the divorce, a no-fault divorce can also decrease the emotional harm experienced by kids because there is less conflict and the process is over quicker.

This can also offer a way for people that are in unhealthy or abusive relationships to file for divorce without having any legal obligation to publicly testify against their spouse.

In order to get a fault-based divorce, the process can be more complicated, more expensive, and more drawn out. You will need to be able to prove the misconduct of your spouse in order to be granted a fault-based divorce.

(Are you wondering how much it's going to cost to get divorced in Texas? Take a look at this article to learn more.)

When Does It Make Sense to File a Fault-Based Divorce in Texas?

mansion as asset in divorce case

Getting a fault-based divorce is more expensive, time-consuming, and involved than a no-fault divorce. Unless there are significant assets involved, a no-fault divorce might be a better choice.

Fault-based divorces are expensive and time costly, as they require that you prove the fault of your spouse. This is often considered to be a waste of time or money if your fault grounds are minimal or if there aren’t significant assets at stake. Dragging your spouse through a fault-based case you know you probably won’t win is likely not worth it, even if you are completely justified in your complaints about their conduct.

However, in other cases, one party can be rewarded a larger portion of the community estate due to the fault of the other party than they would have been in a no-fault divorce. However, if a spouse is found to be at fault by the court, it won’t affect other issues involved in the divorce. It won’t impact child custody rights, as these are considered to be a separate issue from the divorce action itself.

On top of that, the child support obligation or the right to child support of a spouse won’t be impacted by the court finding fault in one spouse.

In cases where both spouses are accusing the other of being at fault, the court will determine which spouse was least at fault. This doctrine is known as “comparative rectitude.”

How to File for No-Fault Divorce in Texas

You will need to prepare a number of documents in order to file for a no-fault divorce in Texas. One of these, the Original Petition for Divorce, is what we typically think of when we hear the term “divorce papers.” If you and your spouse have dependent children, there will be additional documents that you need to fill out and file. They relate to information about the duties of each parent, the visitation rights, and custody.

Unless you are engaged in a totally amicable, uncontested divorce that involves little to no assets and no children, it’s usually a good idea to seek the advice of a lawyer when filing your paperwork. There is a fee for filing divorce papers, which varies between counties.

If you’re filing for an uncontested divorce, a hearing will be scheduled with a judge. The process of scheduling a hearing differs from county to county. If the divorce is contested, then they will have a certain time frame in which to respond before the process continues.

Understanding the Difference Between No-Fault and Fault Is Essential When You’re Getting a Divorce in Texas

When you’ve decided to split from your spouse, or even if you’ve both decided together to end the marriage, there’s often plenty of blame to go around. Even in the most amicable divorces, it can be difficult to not place blame on the other party for the dissolution of the marriage to some extent.

That being said, feeling that the other spouse is to blame for the marriage ending doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to file for a fault-based divorce in Texas. It’s important to understand the difference between these grounds for divorce and how they can impact how long a divorce takes, what the process entails, and how expensive it is. In many instances, filing for a no-fault divorce is the cheaper, faster, and less painful option.

Of course, it’s generally a good idea to consult with an attorney when you are considering a divorce. They will be able to look at your specific circumstances to help you decide the best route to take.

If you’re looking for more information about getting divorced in Texas, you’ve come to the right place. You can learn about the basics of Texas divorce laws, how much a divorce costs, how long a divorce takes, as well as a plethora of other critical topics for someone who wants to learn more about the process in the state of 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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