Texas Divorce Laws & Waiting Periods
By Wayne Thomas
When a couple decides to divorce, moving through the process as quickly and easily as possible is often the primary objective. However, some states impose mandatory waiting periods, and the length of time it takes to have a divorce finalized depends on whether you and your spouse can reach a settlement agreement. Understanding how waiting periods can affect your divorce will help you better prepare for the process in Texas.
To obtain a divorce in Texas, you must first meet the state's residency requirement. This requirement must be met before you file any divorce paperwork. By law, at least one spouse must be a resident of the state for at least six months leading up to the divorce. Either you or your spouse must have lived in the county where the divorce is filed for 90 days before filing.
Texas recognizes both no-fault and fault grounds for divorce. Insupportability is the most commonly-used no-fault grounds. It is based on the concept that the marriage has a serious conflict so it cannot be salvaged. Texas imposes no additional waiting period if you file for divorce on grounds of insupportability. However, the Texas no-fault grounds of living separate and apart requires that the separation be continuous for at least three years. Some of the state's fault grounds have built-in time requirements as well. For example, to prove abandonment, you most show that it lasted for at least one year. You must show that institutionalization lasted at least three years in order to prove confinement of your spouse in a mental hospital, which is also grounds in Texas.
Mandatory Waiting Periods
After you have filed a petition for divorce and you've provided notice to your spouse that you've filed, he has 21 days to respond to the petition in writing and to file his response with the court. The divorce cannot move forward with or without his participation until this period has elapsed. In addition, under Texas law, no divorce may be granted sooner than 60 days after filing. This is a mandatory waiting period, but an exception exists if your spouse has been convicted of domestic violence against you or a member of your household. Neither party can remarry until 31 days have elapsed since the date your divorce was granted.
In addition the waiting periods that apply to all Texas divorces, the time it takes to finalize your divorce depends on your ability to reach an agreement with your spouse regarding all major issues. These include property division, child custody and spousal support. If you and your spouse agree, you can file an uncontested divorce and submit your settlement agreement to the court. Uncontested divorces typically take 90 to 120 days. If you cannot reach an agreement, how long your divorce takes will depend on several factors, such as the complexity of the issues in dispute, whether the court orders you to attend mediation, how quickly you and your spouse can exchange information, whether any temporary orders are requested, the length of the trial itself, and any appeals. (See reference 3).
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."