Austin Divorce Lawyers
Helping You Understand Texas Divorce Law
Divorce can be daunting. It's an incredibly complex legal process, and leaving behind the life you built with your partner can be emotionally challenging.
However, divorce also brings with it the opportunity to form a new beginning. You can use your divorce to springboard into new opportunities and a happier, healthier lifestyle—assuming you prepare for it properly.
At Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, our Austin divorce attorneys have extensive knowledge of Texas divorce law. We'll help you protect your rights in court and prepare for every part of your divorce, enabling you to lay the foundation for a better life once you dissolve your marriage.
How to File for Divorce in Texas
To file for a divorce in Austin, Texas, either spouse:
- Must be a Texas resident for at least six months before filing, and
- Must live in the county where they file for divorce.
As long as you meet those requirements, you should be eligible to file for divorce. You can simply head over to your county court and ask the court clerk for divorce forms. Once you fill out the forms, you can officially file your divorce.
The person who files for divorce is called the petitioner, and their partner is called the respondent. After filing for divorce, the petitioner must notify the respondent of the divorce filing. The petitioner must utilize a constable, sheriff, private process server, or court clerk to serve papers to the respondent.
The respondent has 21 days to respond after receiving notice. If they fail to respond within that time, it may be possible for the petitioner to move forward with the divorce process without the respondent's acknowledgment. However, courts usually require petitioners to wait 60 days after filing for the divorce to receive a final divorce decree from the court.
Do I Need a Reason to File for Divorce in Texas?
Texas divorce law allows residents to file both fault-based and no-fault divorces.
In a fault-based divorce in Austin, TX, one party alleges that the other party has engaged in behavior that justifies the divorce.
Common fault-based reasons to file for divorce in TX include:
- Adultery. If your partner cheats on you, you can file for divorce and cite infidelity as the grounds for your decision.
- Cruelty. If your spouse engages in an act of domestic violence or abuse towards you, it's grounds for a divorce.
- Imprisonment. If your spouse is imprisoned for at least a year, you can file for divorce.
- Abandonment. If your spouse abandons you for at least a year, you can file for divorce.
- Separation. If you and your part live apart from each other without cohabiting for at least three years, you can file for divorce.
However, you do not need to use one of these reasons to file for divorce. You can also file for divorce by citing "irreconcilable differences," meaning you do not believe your marriage can be saved, and filing for divorce is in the best interests of both parties. This is called a "no-fault" divorce.
If you file for a fault-based divorce in Austin, TX, then you should be prepared to back up any accusations you make while filing for divorce. For example, if you file a fault-based divorce for adultery, you should have some sort of evidence your spouse cheated on you to support your case.
Courts handle fault-based divorces slightly differently than no-fault divorces, especially if a spouse files for divorce citing domestic violence or abuse. If the spouse who files for fault-based divorce can back up their claims, the court might penalize the other party more harshly than in a no-fault divorce.
In cases where domestic violence or abuse is an issue, the court might refuse to allow the parties to use a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) like mediation to prevent a power imbalance between the spouses from playing a role in the divorce.
You should work with an Austin divorce lawyer to discuss the best path forward in your divorce. Every case is different, and your divorce attorney can help you decide whether to file for a fault-based or no-fault divorce.
What Happens During A Divorce?
Divorce is one of the most complex forms of civil litigation because it also involves several other legal processes. During your divorce, you can also expect to handle the following kinds of legal disputes:
- Property Division — During property division, the spouses decide how to split their marital assets (the marital home, shared vehicles, assets and liabilities like bank accounts, retirement accounts and debts, pets, etc.).
- Spousal Maintenance — Depending on you and your spouse's financial circumstances, one of you may have to pay the other party spousal maintenance (alimony).
- Child Custody & Child Support — If you share a child (or children) with your spouse, you'll need to develop conservatorship and support arrangements that further your child's best interests and allow them to thrive post-divorce.
How Long Does a Divorce Take in Texas?
Depending on the amount and complexity of the issues that need to be resolved, as well as the degree of conflict between the spouses, it may take six months to a year or longer to get a divorce. In addition, a divorce in Texas isn’t final until at least 60 days after the petition has been filed.
Costs Associated with a Texas Divorce
The answer is…it depends. We know people filing for divorce would like cost estimates to be more specific, but the only thing that can be said for sure is that most counties charge a filing fee of $250 to $320. After that, it’s more appropriate to consider what might impact the costs of a Texas divorce.
Those factors start with the basic question of how many disputes you and your spouse have. These disputes can range from how to split up property, how to handle child custody and visitation and spousal support. For that matter, there can be dispute over the very grounds the divorce is filed on.
If the filing spouse chose to do so on at-fault grounds, then proving that fault will take time and investigation. It’s not enough to say your spouse has a drinking problem, at least if those are on the grounds you’re filing on. That allegation must be proven and proving it will increase costs.
On the question of property settlement, let’s say that one spouse owned the house prior to the marriage ,but both spouses subsequently contributed to significant renovations that increased the value of the home. There’s a good chance this area could be a subject of dispute and require calling in outside experts to help get to a fair settlement. That costs money, as does the time it takes in negotiations.
Couples with diverse financial assets that can include business ownership are more likely to have settlements that require extensive negotiations and forensic analysis. All of which serves to increase the cost of the divorce .
A heated battle over child custody can be both painful on a personal level and, depending on the circumstances, increase the costs of the divorce. Witness testimony, even that from family and friends, takes time. Expert testimony from professionals costs money. It all adds up .
Now, there are ways couples—even ones in a contested divorce over a large number of issues—can work to reduce their costs. Choosing the path of mediation is less expensive than litigation. Avoiding appeals after the process is complete will prevent the final tab from going higher.
So, on balance, the costs of a Texas divorce could be in the hundreds of dollars. It could exceed $20,000 for each spouse. Every couple is different.
Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First?
Strictly speaking, no. Texas law does not treat the petitioner and the respondent in a divorce case differently when it comes to the issues involved in a settlement. There may, however, be some tactical advantages and/or disadvantages that come with filing for divorce first in Texas.
In court, the petitioner (the spouse who filed for divorce) speaks first. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage? On the one hand, you get to set the tone. On the other hand, your spouse is able to get the final word. This can go either way.
The person who files for divorce first may have a preparation advantage. Knowing what their plans are, they may use the time leading up to the filing to get a good handle on their financial affairs and understand what they’ll be aiming to get in a settlement. Filing first offers the opportunity to file on at-fault grounds if they apply and can be proven.
These are distinct advantages ,although this is another case of every coin having a flip side. The person who files first also has to “tip their hand” so to speak. The spouse that is served with papers has the opportunity to first digest the claims made before responding. The filing spouse is already on record.
The one area where filing first does offer a distinct advantage is that the venue will be determined by where the filing spouse lives. If you and you and your spouse are still under the same roof, it won’t matter. But if you just moved to the Austin area and are being separated, while your spouse still lives in San Antonio, it might be nice to have the court hearings closer to your new home.
Do You Need to be Separated to Qualify?
No, spouses do not need to be separated in order to file. In fact, the only requirements for filing for divorce in Texas is that the filing spouse must have lived in the state for six months and the particular county they file in for 90 days.
The only place separation applies in a Texas divorce case is that if a separation has gone on, uninterrupted for three years, that becomes grounds for divorce .
Our Austin divorce attorney Will Be By Your Side from Beginning to End
Divorce can be incredibly intimidating. Handling the emotional turmoil of ending your marriage while deciding how you want to handle various divorce-related processes is a lot to ask of yourself.
At Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, our divorce attorneys in Austin, TX are here to take the burden of your divorce off your shoulders so you can focus on what's really important: maintaining your health and well-being throughout the process. We'll advocate for you in court, giving you comprehensive legal counsel and protecting your rights.
Our Austin divorce lawyers can also help you find a way to proceed with your divorce that enables you to achieve your goals and live life to the fullest once your marriage is dissolved. Divorce is a marathon, not a sprint. You deserve a divorce law firm that will be by your side the whole way, through thick and thin.