Jurisdiction Issues in a Texas Divorce
By Marcy Brinkley
Texas requires anyone who files for divorce in the state to meet both state and county residency requirements. Since there are 254 counties in Texas, be sure that you file in the correct location, especially if you have recently moved. If you file in the wrong county, the court will not have jurisdiction, which means it does not have the power to hear your case or the authority to issue a final decree of divorce.
Personal Jurisdiction: State
Each state has its own laws about who can file for divorce there. Typically, states require people to establish domicile before filing for divorce. This means you intend to make the state your home. Once you establish domicile, the courts have jurisdiction over you. In Texas, you must live in the state for at least six months before filing for divorce there.
Personal Jurisdiction: County
In addition to the state requirements for jurisdiction, you must also meet county requirements. In Texas, you must live in the county for at least 90 days before filing for divorce there. If you live in one Texas county while your spouse lives in another, you have the choice of filing in either county as long as the 90-day requirement is met by one of you. If neither of you can meet the requirement, you must wait until the 90 days are up before filing.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Besides filing in the right geographic location, you must also file for divorce in a court that can decide your type of case. This is called "subject matter jurisdiction." In Travis County, Texas, for example, there are numerous types of courts, including district, county, juvenile, criminal and probate courts, but only the district courts can hear divorce cases. If you tried to file your divorce case in a criminal court, the judge would not be allowed to hear your evidence or make a decision in the case.
Jurisdiction Over Military Members
Some states have special requirements for military personnel but Texas does not. If you can meet the six-month state domicile requirement and 90-day county requirement, you may file for divorce even if you are only there because you are stationed at a military installation. You may also file in Texas if you are in the state only because your spouse is stationed there. Finally, if your home of record is Texas, you may file for divorce there even if you are deployed somewhere else, although there may be some limits to what the judge can order.
Marcy Brinkley has been writing professionally since 2007. Her work has appeared in "Chicken Soup for the Soul," "Texas Health Law Reporter" and the "State Bar of Texas Health Law Section Report." Her degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing; a Master of Business Administration; and a Doctor of Jurisprudence.