How Soon Can I Get a Divorce After a Spouse is Served in Texas?
By Beverly Bird
As in most states, how quickly you can get a Texas divorce depends on how complicated your divorce is, not how much time passes after you serve your spouse with the necessary divorce paperwork. Texas imposes a waiting period, but if you and your spouse have no property or children, or if you agree on every aspect of how you're going to end your marriage, you could be divorced a day after the waiting period ends. If you can't reach an agreement, your divorce will take much longer.
Service of Process
Texas's waiting period begins on the day you file your petition, not the date you officially serve your spouse with your papers. If you can serve your spouse by conventional means – either through a private process server or the county constable – you can usually complete this divorce requirement with a minimum of fuss and relatively quickly. If you don't know where your spouse is living, or if the constable or process server can't track him down to serve him, this can add weeks to the timeline. However, the time runs concurrently with your waiting period.
Time to Answer
After your spouse receives your divorce papers, he has 20 days under Texas law to answer by filing his own pleadings with the court. This time also runs concurrently with your waiting period. Whether you'll be able to divorce right away after the waiting period expires depends a great deal on what happens during these 20 days. If your spouse answers your petition and contests the divorce, you may have a very long road ahead of you. If he doesn't answer at all, you can get a divorce by default, without his participation, but this might also take a little additional time. If he consents to everything you asked for in your divorce petition, or if you've reached an agreement, you should be able to divorce soon after the waiting period ends.
Texas's waiting period is 60 days, although an exception exists if you're a victim of domestic violence. Texas sometimes waives the waiting period under such circumstances. Otherwise, you could theoretically be divorced on the 61st day – but only if everything goes right. You must accomplish service and reach a settlement within these 60 days. Even in a Texas uncontested divorce – when neither you nor your spouse are disputing issues of custody, visitation, property or support – you must appear in court for a "prove up" hearing, although this is mostly just a formality. If the court's docket is not overly full, you might get a court date for your prove up hearing soon after the 60 days expires. Otherwise, you might have to wait a while until the court can schedule a time for you.
Time-consuming complications can arise. If you can't find your spouse to serve him with your paperwork, this could easily delay the proceedings beyond 60 days. You'd have to ask the court for special permission to serve him by publication. Approval usually depends on how hard you've looked for him, so even with the help of the Internet, documenting a diligent search could take a few weeks. You'd then have to submit proof of your search to the court, then publish notice of your petition for divorce in the newspaper, if the judge grants your request to use this method of service. You must wait another 30 days after publication to file for a default judgment. If your spouse responds and contests your divorce, resulting in your going to trial so a judge can resolve the contested issues for you, your divorce might take a year or more.
- Cordell & Cordell: Frequently Asked Divorce Questions – Texas
- Rick Kennon Attorney at Law: Divorcing an Absent Spouse
- Law Offices of Milissa R. Barrick: In Texas, How Long Do You Have to Respond to Divorce Papers?
- The Nacol Law Firm: Facts About Divorce in Texas (How Long Will it Take to Get Divorced?)
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.