What are the steps in getting a divorce?
- Filing the petition: To initiate a divorce, the first step to file an Original Petition for Divorce. The Original Petition for Divorce is a simple document that names the parties and any children of the marriage and one of the spouses (the Petitioner), is seeking a divorce and the grounds for the divorce (the reasons). He or she may also state some of the things that the Petitioner may ask the court to decide, such as orders providing for the children, division of property, and attorney’s fees. Once the Petition is filed the Petitioner must pay a filing fee to the court which is usually around $260. The 60 day waiting period begins when the Petition is filed, however, it is not a court order and does not establish anything legally. It is simply a statement by the Petitioner that he/she wishes to have the marriage dissolved.
- Grounds: Currently, the most common ground for divorce in Texas is insupportability (incompatibility). The sole allegation necessary in the divorce petition is that “the marriage has become insupportable because of personality conflicts which have destroyed the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship”, also referred to as no-fault divorce. In some states this is referred to as “irreconcilable differences”, a term you’re more likely familiar with. The law also provides as possible grounds incurable insanity, living apart for three years, adultery, cruelty, abandonment, and conviction of a felony. These other grounds not used often, but, if you have such grounds, you should discuss them with your attorney.
- Residency: The next important item is residency. You or your spouse must have been a resident of the State of Texas for a period of at least six months and a resident of the county in which you seek to file suit for divorce for a period of a minimum of ninety consecutive days immediately prior to filing the Petition.
- Service on the Respondent: The court must have some evidence that the other spouse (the Respondent) has received a copy of the Petition and therefore knows that a divorce lawsuit is actively pending. One way to provide this evidence is for the Respondent to file a Waiver or an Answer. The Waiver states that the Respondent has received a copy of the Petition. It is voluntarily signed by the Respondent and notarized and then filed with the Court. If you are asked to sign a Waiver by your spouse or your spouse’s lawyer, do not do so without first consulting your own attorney. It may contain additional language that can seriously affect your rights.The Respondent may instead file an Answer, usually prepared by their attorney, the thereby enter their appearance in the case. If the Respondent does not file a Waiver or an Answer, the Petitioner must arrange for a constable or private process server to hand a copy of the Petition to the spouse. This method is called service of citation or service of process. After serving the petition the constable or private process server returns the citation to the courthouse, where it will be filed and establishes proof that the Respondent has received a copy of the Petition. This method costs the Petitioner a service fee of approximately $70 and may potentially embarrass the Respondent. It can be avoided if the Respondent voluntarily enters an appearance in the case by filing either a Waiver or an Answer. Once served, the Respondent will be obligated to file an Answer with the court within a set period of time.