When it comes to filing for divorce in Texas, there are no easy options. The only options are “difficult” and “somewhat less difficult.” Even though an uncontested divorce is marketed as a quick and express split, it is rarely as clean and easy as it sounds.
What You Must Consider in the Divorce Process
When you are contemplating getting a divorce in Texas, you have a number of interests that you must consider, including:
- Your financial situation after the divorce
- The best interests of any minor children
- Resolving the divorce in a quick and cost-effective manner
- Defending yourself from allegations of misconduct
- Setting yourself up for the best possible situation after the divorce
You have to carefully consider how to proceed when you are going through a divorce. While speed and efficiency are considerations, they should not be the only things on your mind. In the best-case scenario, you would be able to get an uncontested divorce and address all of the other considerations mentioned above.
Your Family Law Attorney Can Advise You as To Whether an Uncontested Divorce Is Possible
Your family law attorney will assess your individual circumstances and advise you about the best way to proceed. Your lawyer will consider both strategy and your own individual needs. You should not agree to an uncontested divorce for the sole reason of getting the matter resolved. You may leave yourself, and potentially your children, in an unsustainable position after the divorce is finalized. There may be times when you need to stand up and fight, especially when the other spouse will not be reasonable with their requests and demands.
In reality, most Texas divorces will end up as uncontested. Even if there were issues between the parties at some point in the proceedings, the statistical odds are high that they will be resolved through negotiation. When it comes to the actual divorce filing, some cases will not be contested.
At times, the parties will discuss and negotiate the divorce even before one spouse makes the actual filing in court. This way, they can resolve any issues that are in dispute through negotiations and without relying on a judge or jury. The divorce filing is usually the last step in the lengthy divorce process when spouses can agree on all or most issues outside of court.
Uncontested Divorces Are Often the Best Outcome
An uncontested divorce is often the best option for you. When you have minor children, it is always in everyone’s best interest to resolve the divorce amicably and without the need for a hearing. You always need to go through the court process, but an uncontested divorce can allow you minimal interaction with the legal system.
First, you should consider the legal residency requirements for filing for an uncontested divorce in Texas:
- You must have been a resident in Texas for at least six months at the time of filing the divorce; and
- You must have been a resident in the county where you are filing for divorce for at least 90 days
Unlike many other states, Texas does not require that spouses have lived apart for a certain amount of time before filing a divorce. Theoretically, a spouse can file for divorce immediately after deciding they want to end their marriage.
The Spouses Must Be in Agreement for the Divorce to Be Uncontested
You cannot file for an uncontested divorce unless both spouses agree on the reason. In some cases, one spouse may wish to file for a divorce using grounds that blame the other spouse for the breakup of the marriage. For example, one spouse may be accusing the other of adultery.
When the two spouses are filing for an uncontested divorce, they are agreeing that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The most common ground for an uncontested divorce is that the marriage has become “insupportable.” There are no allegations of fault or that one of the spouses has done something wrong. Fault may matter when there is a dispute over custody or spousal support. But because Texas is a community property state, fault does not come into play with regard to the distribution of assets.
What May Keep a Divorce from Being Uncontested
Perhaps the most crucial part of an uncontested divorce in Texas is the requirement that the two spouses have agreed on the terms of the split. There could be various terms on which spouses may disagree and about which they’ll need to come to an agreement before a divorce can be finalized. Most often, the following issues are what can keep a divorce from being uncontested:
- Custody disputes
- Division of the marital property and debts
- Spousal support
- Child support
Even though Texas is a community property state, it does not automatically mean that the two spouses will agree on property division. One spouse may claim that certain assets are not community property. There may be debts that one spouse has incurred that may be in dispute. Because of the far-reaching ramifications of certain assets being considered community property, it is to be expected that spouses will disagree about which assets of theirs are community property.
Uncontested Divorces Often Come After Negotiations
In many cases, one spouse will file for an uncontested divorce after extensive negotiations to reach a settlement agreement. The parties may have needed help from a mediator to reach common ground. If you file for divorce without every single issue resolved, it would not be uncontested. The judge will not be able to finalize a divorce until the court rules on all matters that in dispute.
A contested divorce could become an uncontested one if the parties are able to settle their dispute before their case reaches a hearing or trial. Many contested divorces are settled before trial, and rarely require drawn-out and divisive legal proceedings in front of a judge or jury.
Filing an Uncontested Divorce in Court
Once you have finalized all the details, it is time to make the actual divorce filing with the court. There are numerous forms that you will need to complete in order to file for divorce. An uncontested divorce is still a court process that requires the judge’s approval. In order to ensure all forms are completed properly and everything is filed correctly, you should work with a Texas divorce lawyer.
Here is the procedure for filing for an uncontested divorce:
- Complete the necessary forms and include a copy of a marital settlement agreement
- Submit the actual file to the court either directly in hard copy form to the clerk or in electronic form through an electronic filing system
- To file for an uncontested divorce, you would need to pay a court fee (the parties usually agree as to how this fee is to be divided)
- Serve the other party with the divorce filing, including the necessary forms (your spouse can sign a document that waives the requirement for you to serve them)
In an uncontested divorce, both spouses must still sign the divorce decree.
There Is a Waiting Period for a Divorce to Be Finalized
Even when a divorce is not contested, a court will not automatically grant it upon filing. Like other states, Texas has a mandatory waiting period to get a divorce. In Texas, you must wait 60 days after filing for divorce for a judge to grant it, regardless of the fact that the divorce is uncontested. The court system wants to give people an opportunity to change their mind before finalizing a divorce. Once the 60-day period elapses, you can then request the court schedule a hearing on the divorce. The hearing would largely be a formality, although a judge reserves the right to disapprove of the terms of the settlement agreement. Still, uncontested divorces in Texas are usually much quicker than those in other states.
You do not need the other spouse to physically respond to the divorce filing for the court to issue an order. If you have made multiple attempts to serve your spouse, or if they refuse to respond to the divorce filing, the court can grant a default order. However, you need to provide the court with evidence that you have tried to serve the other spouse with divorce papers. Also, as mentioned above, your spouse can waive service of process and simply sign off on the agreed decree.
You Should Hire an Attorney for any Family Law Case
An uncontested divorce often does not become a reality until after extensive effort on both spouses’ parts. For that reason, you should always consider hiring an experienced divorce attorney, regardless of whether you think the case may go to trial. It does not take much to derail the divorce process, especially when emotions are high. Small disputes can often become larger ones that end up in court.
In addition, if you rely on online providers that promise a low flat fee for a divorce, you increase the chances that mistakes will be made—which may not be easily undone. The divorce agreement is a binding contract between you and the other spouse. Once you sign it, you would need to show a material and substantial change to the circumstances of one or both parties, or a child, for a court to grant the modification.
The Texas family law attorneys at Terry & Roberts can help you negotiate a divorce settlement agreement that can remove the threat of litigation. If you cannot reach an agreement on the terms of a divorce to make it uncontested, we will vigorously represent your position in court.