When you file for divorce in Texas, you’ll be required to tell the court why you want to dissolve your marriage. In family law, these reasons are known as “divorce grounds,” and they are a required line item in every divorce complaint.
However, there’s a catch: When listing these reasons, you’ll only have seven options to choose from.
In Texas, these seven divorce grounds fall into one of two categories: 1) at-fault grounds; and, 2) no-fault grounds. Each type triggers a different divorce process (and overall experience), so it’ll be important to understand what they all mean, before you file any paperwork.
Here’s what you need to know about grounds for divorce in Texas, and what North Texas Family Lawyers can do to help you figure out which type of divorce is right for you.
GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE IN TEXAS
Marriage means a lot of things to a lot of people; but for Texas courts, this relationship status is nothing more than a contract. And breaking a contract—no matter what type of law you’re dealing with—is kind of a big deal. Which is why when you get divorced, they’re gonna want to know why you’re breaking up.
This “why” is known as your divorce grounds.
Divorce grounds can sometimes overlap with your underlying, motivational reasons for divorce; however, they won’t always. (Mostly because you only have seven grounds to choose from—and, unfortunately, “leaving balled up socks around the house” isn’t one of them).
In Texas, the seven grounds for divorce are:
- Living Apart
- Confinement to a Mental Hospital
- Felony Conviction
The first three on this list will trigger a “no-fault” divorce, while the final four are all “fault” grounds.
Here’s a closer look at the qualifications for each, and why you might want to file for one over the other.
No-Fault Grounds for Divorce
In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse is held accountable for the breakup. As a result, judges are not allowed to consider culpability when dividing things like child custody, marital property, and alimony.
Texas’s three “no-fault” divorce grounds are as follows:
- Insupportability. In other states, this option is more commonly known as “irreconcilable differences.” Unsurprisingly, this is the most commonly cited grounds for divorce in Texas, since it’s essentially a catch-all for “no longer getting along.”
To file under these grounds, you must be able to prove that your marriage is no longer “supportable,” because constant discord is destroying your relationship. There also can’t be any hope of reconciliation, farther down the road.
- Living Apart. For these grounds to apply, you and your spouse must have been living apart for at least three years. This option might be appropriate for spouses who have had an extended separation prior to filing for divorce.
- Confinement to a Mental Hospital. It’s not enough to have a mental health condition. In order to qualify here, one spouse must have been confined to a mental hospital for at least three years, and have no hope of recovering. (We’re guessing it won’t shock you to learn these grounds aren’t used very often.)
Generally speaking, no-fault divorces are less contentious. As a result, they’re faster, more cost effective, and less toxic, overall. These types of divorces can often be resolved out of court, through either mediation or collaborative divorce.
In Texas, it’s perfectly acceptable to file under “no-fault” grounds even if there has been fault.
At-Fault Grounds for Divorce
Unlike a “no-fault” divorce, all’s fair in love and war for “at-fault” grounds. Here, blame is absolutely on the table, and judges are allowed to consider the “guilt” of one spouse over the other, and hold them accountable, accordingly (often in the form of alimony).
The Texas Family Code outlines four acceptable at-fault grounds; they are:
- Cruelty. This is applicable whenever one spouse acts with “cruelty” toward the other, for an extended period of time. While domestic violence would naturally fall under this category, the vague wording in Texas law leaves it open to interpretation.
Generally speaking, any physical or mental harm can qualify, so long as it’s willful and persistent. (However, a singular, egregious event might also qualify, depending on the circumstances.)
- Adultery. If you can prove your spouse cheated, then you can file under these grounds—furthermore, your proof doesn’t even have to be as strong as a photo or video. In Texas, circumstantial evidence can be damning enough, if it leads to only one logical conclusion.
We should note, however, that “emotional cheating” does not qualify. For adultery to count, it must be physical.
- Abandonment. To qualify under these grounds, one of the spouses must have left voluntarily, with clear intent to never return. This abandonment must have lasted longer than a year; a return visit at any point during that time could potentially disrupt your argument under these grounds.
- Felony Conviction. Committing a crime is not enough for these grounds. For it to qualify, the spouse actually has to be convicted, and spend more than a year in prison. (Though, if your circumstances don’t rise to the level of felony conviction, keep in mind that you can always file under cruelty or insupportability.)
At-fault divorces can have a huge impact on things like child custody, visitation, and the division of marital property. These breakups are often marked by high levels of controversy, making them more expensive and difficult to litigate. Because of this, we generally recommend avoiding them whenever possible.
If you’re interested in filing under at-fault grounds, it’s important to speak to a family law attorney about your options.
DO YOU NEED HELP WITH DIVORCE GROUNDS IN TEXAS?
The grounds you choose will have a huge impact on the trajectory of your divorce journey. These terms set the tone for negotiations, and can even influence things like marital property and alimony. Which is why it’s so important to have an experienced family law attorney fighting at your side.
If you have more questions about grounds for divorce in Texas, we want to hear from you. Call North Texas Family Lawyers at 972-402-6367, or schedule a consultation online, and together, we can figure out what grounds are right for you.