Whether married for a short period of time or a few decades, the decision to end a marriage is not an easy one. Divorce is not something we typically associate with happiness or joy, and as such many couples ask just how quickly the divorce process can be completed. In Texas, a quick divorce can be accomplished in as little as 60 consecutive days according to state law. While this may seem like a long time, the divorce process is complicated and getting everything done within 60 days can take a great amount of legal effort. There are very few exceptions to this 60-day mandatory waiting period and those exceptions typically have to do with the safety of the individuals involved in the divorce.
The Texas Divorce Process
Every divorce starts with a petition, which is a legal document prepared by the spouse who is filing for divorce or by the lawyer representing them in the divorce proceedings. The petition is required to include certain information according to the Texas Family Code. An experienced divorce lawyer will know exactly what needs to be included. The petition will be filed with the clerk’s office for the family court system in the county where the filing couple lives. If the couple lives in separate counties, filing in one of those counties is acceptable. The Texas Family Code mandates that the divorce may not be finalized before the 60th day after the date the petition for divorce was filed. Completion of the 60-day waiting period, while painful for some couples, must occur before a court will consider granting a divorce. But, even on the 61st day after the petition was filed, the court still can’t grant a divorce if the case is not ready or eligible to be finalized.
Once a petition has been filed in the correct court, two additional criteria must be met before a divorce can be finalized. These include legal notice to the other spouse involved and a written agreement, or absence of disagreement, between the couple as to the proposed terms of the divorce. This is the key to whether or not a divorce can be accomplished quickly in Texas. Legal notice can be accomplished in two ways – either your spouse signs a Waiver of Citation in the presence of a notary public after the date the divorce petition was filed or they can be hand-delivered a Service of Citation by a neutral third party designated by the court. The citation itself is a legal document that notifies your spouse they are being sued for divorce and gives them time to respond. If you and your spouse are on good terms and both agree to the divorce and its terms, then your spouse will most likely sign the waiver. If they do not want to sign the waiver and choose to fight the divorce, the process will take much longer.
If both spouses can agree to the terms of a divorce settlement, it will help the process proceed quickly after the non-filing spouse receives proper legal notice. To make sure the divorce is eligible to be finalized after the 60-day waiting period, the couple will need a written and signed agreement that details the settlement terms or there must be an absence of disagreement between the couple. This is often called an uncontested divorce.
An uncontested divorce occurs when spouses agree on all terms in the divorce, including how to divide marital property. Texas divorce law allows an uncontested divorce process to occur for those who meet the following criteria:
- The couple agrees to the grounds for divorce.
- The couple agrees to end the marriage.
- There are no minor children involved.
- The couple does not own property together.
- The couple does not have retirement benefits needing to be divided.
- Neither spouse has an ongoing bankruptcy case.
- Neither spouse is seeking alimony.
- If there are minor children involved, you may still be able to utilize the “agreed divorce” process if:
- The couple agrees on all divorce-related issues including child custody and support payments.
- There are no court orders for child custody or support in place.
When it comes to “grounds” for divorce, Texas couples have the option to file a fault divorce using the pre-approved reasons listed in the Texas Family Code. Some examples include one spouse committing adultery, a spouse abandoning the marriage, or if the couple has lived apart for three or more years with no cohabitation. To successfully file for an uncontested or agreed divorce, however, you must file listing a no-fault reason, including insupportability or living apart.
If there are any unresolved issues in a divorce, or if the above criteria do not apply to your situation, you do not qualify for an uncontested divorce and the process may take much longer than 60 days. Your final divorce decree should include all agreed upon provisions. If all of the criteria have been met, your case should be eligible for immediate finalization. You will be required to make a personal court appearance to finalize an uncontested or agreed 60-day divorce. The court appearance should be very brief and your spouse is not required to appear with you on the date of finalization. Your divorce lawyer will appear with you in court to guide you through the process. The divorce only becomes final once the judge signs the final decree, which may or may not be on the date of your court hearing.
Brazoria County Divorce Lawyers
No matter if you’re going through an uncontested divorce or a contested divorce, making the decision to separate from a partner is incredibly difficult. Even if you and your soon-to-be-ex agree on virtually everything, it is still wise to consult with an experienced Texas divorce attorney to ensure all your needs are met. At Terry & Roberts, our Brazoria County divorce attorneys will provide you with clear, caring, and practical legal guidance to help you through the process. Contact our office today to see how we can best help you and your family.