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How Long Does Divorce Take in Texas?

9 min read
Rachael Goldstein, Attorney

by Rachael Goldstein, Attorney

Hold your horses – in Texas, a “cooling off” period must occur before a divorce can be finalized. State law mandates that 60 days must pass from the date of filing the divorce petition before a divorce can take place. 

This means that theoretically, the quickest you could get divorced in Texas is on the 61st day after filing in almost all cases. In reality, even amicable divorces tend to extend beyond that due to court schedules and finding court dates that work for all parties involved. Typically, an uncontested divorce might take about three or four months.

If there are disputed issues such as child custody or support, spousal maintenance, and property division, the divorce process in Texas will generally take longer. This could be several months or even a year or longer, depending on the circumstances.

Exception to the Cooling Off Period

If the opposing party in the divorce proceedings (the respondent) has been convicted of an offense involving family violence against you or a member of your household, or if there’s an active protective order based on family violence during your marriage, the cooling off period can be waived.

Divorce Process in Texas

If you’re contemplating a divorce in Texas, understanding the process can make it easier to see things through. Generally, you or your family lawyer will take the following steps:

Step One: Filing the Petition for Divorce

The divorce proceedings begin with one of the spouses filing an “Original Petition for Divorce” at the appropriate district court. This document outlines the reason for the divorce and what the filing spouse is asking for in the process. 

Step Two: Serving Legal Notice

After the petition is filed, a legal notice must be served to the other spouse notifying them about the divorce proceedings. 

Step Three: Your Spouse’s Response

The receiving spouse then has 20 days from when they were served to respond to the divorce petition. This response, known as an Answer, lets the court know that they wish to participate in the divorce proceedings.

Step Four: Temporary Orders

If immediate decisions concerning children, property, or other issues need to be decided during the divorce process, either spouse can request a court hearing for temporary orders. In more contentious cases, a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) may be issued to protect one partner from harassment or harmful actions by the other.

Step Five: Settle Divorce-Related Matters

The next phase is about coming to an agreement on the outline of a final settlement.. This typically involves dealing with the division of marital assets and property, child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance. This is often done through negotiation or mediation. 

Negotiation aims to resolve disputes without court intervention. Both spouses – either directly or represented by their attorneys – engage in discussions to try to reach an agreement regarding these matters.

If negotiations aren’t successful, a neutral third party known as a mediator can be brought in to facilitate communication between the parties to help them reconcile their issues.

Unresolved Issues Proceed To Trial

If negotiation and mediation do not result in a resolution, then your divorce will be resolved in a court trial. In this aspect of the process, each argument will be brought before the court and decisions on all unsettled matters will ultimately be decided by the judge. 

Step Six: Final Divorce Order

The final step in the divorce process is receiving your Decree of Divorce. This is a document that formally ends your marriage and outlines all the terms and conditions. 

This includes decisions concerning child custody, child support, spousal maintenance payments, division of assets and debts, and all other matters that need to be sorted out before a marriage can be dissolved. 

Residency Requirements for Texas Divorce 

In Texas, to be eligible to file for divorce there are specific residency requirements that must be met. At least one of the parties must have lived in Texas for a minimum period of six months. Additionally, either party needs to have resided in the county where the divorce is being filed for at least 90 days. 

If the spouse seeking a divorce does not live in the state – or even the country – the divorce can still be filed in Texas if the other partner meets the residency requirements of the state. 

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Approximate Cost to File For Divorce in Texas 

The cost to file paperwork for divorce is typically between $250 and $300, although the exact amount can differ based on the county where you’re filing. Affordable lawyers and divorce settlements will add to your final total.

Additionally, if your spouse needs to be officially served with divorce papers by a process server, this will bring an additional fee. If you’re unable to afford the expenses involved in filing for divorce, Texas law does provide some help. You can file an “Affidavit of Inability to Pay Court Costs,” requesting that the court waive the divorce filing fees.

Reasons for Divorce in Texas 

Under Texas law, a divorce may be sought based on either fault or no fault grounds.

Fault Grounds for Divorce in Texas

In situations where one spouse alleges that the other spouse’s actions have been particularly harmful or damaging, they may seek what is referred to as a “fault” divorce. These claims require proof to substantiate the allegations made by one party against the other.

The most common fault grounds include cruelty, adultery, abandonment, and felony criminal conviction. There are some less common fault grounds that are sometimes granted in Texas, as well. One of the best ways to determine if you have grounds to file for a fault divorce is to reach out to an attorney for help with this step.

No-Fault Grounds For Divorce in Texas

In Texas, individuals may also file for divorce without asserting fault against the other party. These ‘no-fault’ grounds are designed to recognize situations where a marriage has become unsustainable due to irreconcilable differences, and include:


This is the most widely recognized ground among no-fault divorces in Texas. It implies that the marital relationship has deteriorated beyond repair.

Living Apart

If the parties have lived apart without cohabitation for at least three uninterrupted years, this can constitute a ground for a no-fault divorce as well.

Mental Hospital Confinement

When one spouse has been confined in a mental hospital for three years or longer and when their condition is of such a degree that either they’re unlikely to adjust, or it’s likely that they will relapse, this also qualifies as a no-fault ground for divorce.

Division of Property in Texas Divorces

Texas is one of nine states that uses the community property framework to distribute property in a divorce. The Texas Family Code also specifies that the division of property must be done in a way that is just and right. This means the court will decide what they believe is fair, which could be different than a 50/50 split.

Marital vs Separate Property

As a community property state, Texas generally treats any assets acquired during the marriage by either party as jointly owned, requiring them to be divided equitably between spouses upon divorce. 

Separate property, on the other hand, includes assets that one spouse possessed before marriage or acquired independently during the marriage through inheritance, gift, or certain types of personal injury settlements. This kind of property remains with the original owner and isn’t subject to division upon divorce in Texas as long as clear and convincing evidence can substantiate its separate nature. 

Take an Inventory of Assets

One of the first things you’ll need to do when determining who is entitled to what is to identify all assets, and accurately characterize each particular one as community or separate property. 

You’ll then need to figure out what they’re worth, and how you would like for them to be divided in an equitable manner. 

If you’re facing the division of property in a Texas divorce and are overwhelmed by the process, reaching out to a lawyer can be incredibly beneficial. While you can divorce without a lawyer in Texas, working with a professional can help you with this aspect of the divorce even if you don’t need them for other parts of the process.

Spousal Maintenance and Child Custody Considerations in Texas

Texas law makes limited provisions for alimony, but child support is often awarded.

Child Custody in Texas

The overarching priority of courts when deciding on matters relating to child custody is what is in the best interest of the children. When determining this, the court considers many factors, some of the most common including: 

  • The desires of the child, taking into account their age and level of maturity 
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable home environment
  • Parental work demands 
  • The emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future
  • Any potential danger posed to the health or safety of children involved
  • The role each parent has had in parenting duties up until the present point

By weighing these considerations – among others – courts aim to make decisions based on what will be best for the child. 

Texas Alimony Rules

Spousal maintenance (often referred to as alimony) is awarded only in some Texas-based divorce cases. Here’s when it may be granted:

  1. If there’s evidence of family violence committed by the prospective paying spouse against the other spouse or their child within two years prior to filing for divorce in Texas or while the divorce is pending; OR
  1. If the marriage lasted for 10 years or more AND the seeking spouse lacks sufficient assets including property and income to provide for their reasonable needs; OR
  1. If the seeking spouse is the primary caretaker of a child (of any age) from the marriage who has such significant physical or mental disability that it prohibits the seeking spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for minimum reasonable needs; OR
  1. Both parties agree that spousal maintenance should be awarded.

In Texas, there are very strict statutory caps placed on the amount of spousal maintenance that can be awarded in a divorce case. Regardless of how high the paying spouse’s earnings might be, spousal maintenance cannot surpass $5,000 per month or 20% of the payer’s average monthly gross income – whichever is less.

Deciding to pursue a divorce isn’t easy, and navigating the process presents an array of emotional and legal challenges. The complexities of complying with statutory requirements, identifying assets, calculating spousal maintenance, or strategizing for child custody are just some areas where having skilled counsel can be invaluable.

Whether you require comprehensive representation throughout your entire divorce or need assistance with certain aspects, help is available to lighten the load during this life-altering transition.

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