Not all divorces are ugly, or have to take a long time. In fact, it’s not even a requirement that you have to disagree.
An “uncontested divorce” occurs when a couple decides to call it quits without fighting over any of the terms. This type of divorce saves time, money, and is especially popular with those who haven’t been married very long. However—like many things in divorce—just because you can go without representation here, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Here’s how uncontested divorce works in Texas, and why a Neal Ashmore attorney can still help you—even if you and your partner agree.
Who Should Get an Uncontested Divorce
Even in healthy relationships, couples disagree. They argue about mundane things like mowing the lawn, loading the dishwasher, and whose turn it is to pick up dinner. So you can imagine what happens when you throw in important issues like property division and children.
This is why uncontested divorces aren’t as common as the contested variety, and why these types of dissolutions generally work best for couples who haven’t been married very long. Shorter marriages haven’t had time to accumulate much property, debt, or even children. Meaning, even if you don’t like each other, you can’t fight, because there’s nothing to fight over.
Hence, uncontested divorce is really only advisable when property is limited, and you have no children. Otherwise, it’s extremely important to meet with an attorney in order to make sure your interests are being properly represented.
How to Get an Uncontested Divorce
If you feel your situation falls within an acceptable range of agreeability, here’s how to go about executing an uncontested divorce in Texas.
1. Meet the Residency Requirements
Regardless of what type of divorce you choose, any couple wishing to file for divorce in Texas will need to meet both the state and county residency requirements.
According to the Texas Family Code, at least one member of the duo needs to have lived in the state for six months prior to filing. On the county level, the requirement is ninety days.
2. Collect a Petition
A divorce can’t be initiated without a petition. This document signifies to the court that you wish to dissolve your marriage contract, and requests that the court return with a final order. It is the act that formally begins your legal breakup.
A form for an Original Petition for Divorce can be collected at your county clerk’s office (located in the county where you reside).
In a contested scenario, it can be extremely beneficial to be the first one to file for divorce. In an uncontested divorce (where there is no disagreement), it doesn’t matter as much, so long as one of you initiates with a petition.
3. Sign and Return Your Petition
Your divorce petition will ask for the names and contact information for both you and your spouse. It will also ask for details regarding:
- Meeting your residency requirements;
- Your marriage and separation dates;
- Any children you have together;
- Any current pregnancies;
- The property and debt you have accumulated;
- How much discovery you think you’ll need;
- Whether you think your spouse will respond to proper service;
- What grounds you have for divorce (including fault);
- Any current or pending protective orders; as well as,
- An opportunity to request a waiver of your waiting period.
On your petition, you can also indicate whether or not you’d like the court to change your name (an option typically utilized by women reverting back to their maiden name).
Once you have completed the necessary information, you will then need to sign and return your petition to the clerk, along with your filing fee. This amount varies by county, but typically runs between $250-$300.
4. Execute Proper Service
Even though your divorce is uncontested, you will still need to formally notify your spouse that you’ve initiated proceedings. This is called “service,” and is done by delivering physical copies of your divorce papers to your spouse.
For service to be proper, your server must:
- Be older than 18;
- Not be a party to the case;
- Complete service within twenty-one days; and,
- Fill out a Proof of Service form and return it to you for filing.
Generally, it isn’t too difficult to execute proper service in an uncontested divorce, since both parties are willing participants to the split.
5. The Waiting Period
While you and your spouse might agree about the terms of your divorce, Texas courts still are not allowed to hear your case any sooner than sixty days after filing. These two-months are a mandatory waiting period, and are designed to give couples the opportunity to reconcile.
The only time courts are willing to waive this requirement is in cases of domestic violence (in which case you should probably not be getting an uncontested divorce, since Texas courts allow fault-based divorces).
6. Attend Your Hearing
After your two months are up, it’s time to attend your hearing, which is usually scheduled when you file your petition. In uncontested cases, this hearing is more of a formality than anything else, and typically doesn’t take very long.
At this meeting, the judge will review your petition, and will likely ask questions to make sure both you and your spouse understand that the divorce is uncontested. If the judge is satisfied with your answers and paperwork, your settlement will be signed into order.
7. File the Final Decree with the Clerk
After your hearing, be sure to file your order with the county clerk, as the terms of your settlement aren’t technically finalized (or enforceable) until you do.
Once the clerk has processed your signed order, you and your spouse will receive a certified copy of your decree for your personal records. After that?
Congratulations, your divorce is complete.
Why You Need an Attorney
While no one is ever required to have an attorney, having one is always better than not—even in an uncontested divorce.
Too often we see couples who think they’re in agreement, only to get neck deep into their divorce and realize they aren’t nearly as aligned, after all. This area of law is complicated and nuanced, and without proper representation, it’s too easy to make expensive and irreversible errors.
That’s why it’s so crucial to talk to an attorney. An experienced lawyer will be able to highlight potential red flags in your contract, and allow you to address these issues before filing with the court (where it might be too late to undo). This allows you to proceed with the peace of mind in knowing your long-term interests are being protected, making an attorney well worth the investment.
Uncontested Divorce Attorneys in Texas
With little fighting or fanfare, it’s easy to see why uncontested divorce is such an attractive prospect to couples. However, despite its benefits, it’s not necessarily the right choice for everyone.
If you and your partner are thinking about an uncontested divorce, we want to hear from you. Call us today at (972) 436-8000, or schedule a consultation online, and let a Neal Ashmore attorney help determine the best option for your unique situation.