If you’re trying to chart out how much of your life you’re about to devote to divorce, the answer probably isn’t going to make you happy. Because the truth is? We have no idea.
How long it takes to get a divorce in Texas depends on a host of factors that differ wildly between couples, so it’s impossible to predict the exact length of any given divorce. What we can say, though, is that the absolute shortest amount is two months, and that most people tend to spend between six and eighteen months.
To help you narrow it down a little more, we’ve included some of the biggest issues that influence how long it takes to get a divorce in Texas.
The Shortest Divorce in Texas
Due to the required waiting period (outlined in the Texas Family Code), the absolute minimum amount of time your divorce can take is two months—and the clock doesn’t start until you file.
The logic behind this waiting period is similar to that of the separation period mandated by other states. By enforcing a cooldown time, courts ensure that divorce isn’t just a couple’s knee-jerk reaction to a bad fight, and the only time judges are willing to waive this requirement, is in cases of domestic violence.
Factors That Influence Divorce Times
Once you’ve cleared the two-month hurdle, you’ve officially passed the only firm deadline we can give you. From here on out, you’re in solid question mark territory. Moving forward, some of the factors that will influence your total time spent, are:
Fault Divorces Take Longer
When you file for divorce, one thing your petition must include, is your grounds—or rather, your justification for wanting a split. All states have adopted some form of no-fault divorce process. However, Texas is one of the few that still allows individuals to file on fault-based grounds.
In a fault-based filing, judges are allowed to take the “bad behavior” of one spouse into consideration when dividing property, and assigning things like alimony. In Texas, the two most commonly used fault grounds are adultery and abuse.
Naturally, these types of accusations spark controversy (since, let’s be honest: no one wants part of their marital property pie revoked). This means additional paperwork, more discovery, and a longer time spent arguing about issues, all of which can add up to a larger bill, too. Hence, for shorter divorces, it’s best to avoid assigning fault.
Divorce Type Makes a Difference
Of course, even if you forego the fault-based grounds, that still doesn’t mean you and your spouse will agree on all the terms of your divorce. When couples disagree on how to finalize these issues, this is called a contested divorce. On the flip side, if they agree on everything, it’s called an uncontested divorce.
In an uncontested situation, couples are able to come to an agreement, draft up the terms, and submit it to the court for approval without intervention (though, often under the supervisory direction of an attorney). Usually, judges don’t have a problem approving an arrangement that both partners agreed to, and for that reason, uncontested divorces take a lot less time than the contested variety.
That being said, not all contested divorces are created equally. There are “levels” of contested (if you will), and you don’t have to jump straight to litigation, just because you can’t agree who gets the house. Couples who can communicate respectfully, and are willing to negotiate can shave off a lot of divorce time by engaging in alternative methods of dissolution, such as mediation or collaborative divorce.
The Longer Your Marriage, the Longer Your Divorce Takes
This sentiment isn’t necessarily written in stone, however, when trying to calculate the length of your divorce, it’s a good rule of thumb. (And we aren’t just saying that because you’ve gotten good at fighting after all those years.)
Longer marriages take longer for the simple fact that these couples usually have more. More property. More kids. More debts and obligations. More of everything, really, because you’ve had a longer time to accumulate than the couple trying to reverse a six-month mistake. And these things take time to resolve.
Texas is a community property jurisdiction, meaning, all assets accumulated by either spouse during the marriage belongs to both, equally. And when you factor in things like prenuptial agreements, separate property, marital debt, and inheritances, suddenly an equitable division starts to look a bit complicated—and that’s to say nothing of how dicey simply classifying this property can be.
Furthermore, these lengthy marriages have a higher chance of producing offspring, and—like with everything in life—kids are a game changer in divorce. When children are involved, courts require you to have a parenting plan, which outlines important parenting rights and responsibilities, such as custody, visitation, and child support. Moreover, if one of you sacrificed career advances to help out as a homemaker, a judge might also think an order of spousal maintenance is appropriate, too.
The simple fact is, the longer you’ve been married, the longer you’ve had to grow together, severing one root system into two takes time. Our advice? If you were married a long time, and are looking to cut down on some divorce time, then pay close attention to our final point.
The Game Changer
Whether your divorce is uncontested, fault-based, or something in between, one of the biggest time influencers of time comes down to one simple thing: attitude.
We know it sounds like something you’d pull off a bumper sticker, but in this case, a good attitude really will help you achieve faster results. Because fighting means evidence, means filing, means money, means time, and those who set their heels into the proverbial molehill will end up growing old on that mountain, if they aren’t careful.
So, while you certainly shouldn’t settle for something you aren’t comfortable with, being able to compromise calmly and respectfully during this difficult time will not only achieve results faster, but also set you up for a better overall family dynamic, moving into your new normal.
Divorce Attorneys in Texas
The process of dissolving a marriage contract is complicated and nuanced. On your own, it can be difficult to even make a ballpark guestimate how long it will take (let alone to know for sure). And while we can’t make any guarantees, either, an attorney with the right skill and perspective can at least help you narrow down that window.
If you have more questions about how long it takes to get a divorce in Texas, call Neal Ashmore at (972) 436-8000, or schedule a consultation online, and let us help you transition into your new normal as quickly as possible.