You may have already emotionally committed to the idea of getting a divorce—you may have even started shopping around for a good family law attorney. However, in Texas, a divorce doesn’t technically begin until a divorce complaint has been filed.
A divorce complaint (or “petition for divorce”) is a legal document that notifies the court of your intent to dissolve your marriage and requests their help in doing so. In order to be valid, however, it must meet certain legal requirements, and a failure to do so can sometimes delay divorce proceedings.
Here’s what you need to know about filing a divorce complaint in Texas, and how the North Texas Family Lawyers team can help you with this important process.
Before You File Your Divorce Complaint
A divorce complaint might make the whole thing official, but the process of filing for divorce starts long before you submit any paperwork.
Here are some of the things you’ll want to check off your list, before starting your complaint:
- Residency Requirement. According to the Texas Family Code, at least one of you must have lived in the state for at least six months, prior to filing. (In some cases, there may also be a country requirement.)
- Divorce Type. The type of divorce you choose will have a huge impact on how long and expensive your divorce will be, with uncontested divorce being the least involved, and fault divorce litigation taking the longest.
- Select Representation. While you are not required to have an attorney, Texas courts strongly recommend it. Divorce law is nuanced and complicated, and a skilled attorney will both ensure your rights are fully represented, and help you avoid costly (sometimes irreversible) mistakes.
Once you’ve checked all of your pre-filing boxes, you are ready to begin your divorce complaint.
Filing Your Divorce Complaint
In Texas, you initiate your divorce by filing a divorce complaint—also known as an “Original Petition for Divorce.” This document acts as a kind of declaration to the court that you intend to dissolve your marriage and also requests their help in achieving that end.
To file this petition, you will do so by following these three steps.
Step 1: Acquire and Complete Petition
All of Texas’s divorce paperwork—including forms for an Original Petition for Divorce—can be found online. However, you’ll want to make sure you download the right forms, since requirements can vary, depending on your circumstances (including whether or not you have kids).
Once you have the correct form—and before you start filling in blanks—make sure you have the following information ready to go:
- Your personal ID information
- Your spouse’s name and ID information
- How you plan on serving your spouse
- Where you will be living during your divorce
- The dates of your marriage and separation
- Your grounds for divorce
- The names and personal information of any children you share
- Information about marital property, debt, and separate property
- Whether you will be requesting a name change
Remember, if you are the one filing for divorce, then you will be the petitioner (or plaintiff); in contrast, your spouse is the defendant.
When filling out your paperwork, it’s important to be as accurate and detailed as possible. At the very least, errors will result in delays, and in some cases, will even require you to completely resubmit your paperwork. So it’s best to simply slow down, and get it right the first time.
Step 2: Complete Additional Forms
Every Texas divorce starts with an Original Petition of Divorce; however, it’s very possible there will be other forms you’ll need to fill out (depending on your circumstances, and where you live).
Some of these additional documents may include:
- Civil Information Sheet
- Bureau of Vital Statistics Form
- Waiver of Service
- Certificate of Last Known Address
- Final Decree of Divorce
- Affidavit of Military Status
- Child Support Worksheet
- Income Withholding for Support Order
If you are unsure which of these you’ll need, it’s best to talk to a family law attorney, who can help you avoid any costly filing mistakes.
Step 3: File Paperwork
Once complete, you will need to take your petition (along with all other completed paperwork), and file them with your county clerk—though, be sure to make copies of everything first. At this time, you will also be expected to pay a filing fee.
Since divorce is handled on the county level, this amount will vary, according to your jurisdiction. Usually, however, it ranges between $250-$300.
If you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, be sure to include a completed Affidavit of Inability to Pay in your packet of documents.
After You File Your Divorce Complaint
If you have successfully filed your paperwork and paid the fees, then congratulations! You have officially filed for divorce in Texas! However, that doesn’t mean your responsibilities are over yet…
Before you relax, you’ll need to notify your spouse that you have filed for divorce. To do this, you will need to submit copies of all of your divorce paperwork to them, which must be done via proper service. Afterwards, they will have thirty days to respond with an answer.
If your spouse does not respond within thirty days, then your judge will likely enter a default judgment for your divorce. If they do respond, then you’ll either need to proceed to settlement proceedings (such as mediation), or to trial. Both will require a hearing to formalize the terms of your divorce, after which your judge will present you with a final decree of divorce.
Do You Need Help with a Divorce Complaint in Texas?
Divorce law is complicated and nuanced, which means that filing for divorce can be a daunting task. However, with the right representation, it doesn’t have to be as stressful as you might be thinking.
If you have more questions about how to file a divorce complaint in Texas—or want to know what you should do, if you’ve been served with one—we want to hear from you. Call the North Texas Family Lawyers team today at }, or schedule a consultation online, and let us help you navigate this important life transition.