Austin Divorce Lawyers
Helping You Get a New Lease on Life
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 lawyers have extensive knowledge of the divorce process in Texas. 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.
What Are the Requirements to Get Divorced in Texas?
To file for a divorce in 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 allows residents to file both fault-based and no-fault divorces.
In a fault-based divorce, one party alleges that the other party has engaged in behavior that justifies the divorce. Common fault-based reasons to file for divorce 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, 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 a divorce lawyer to discuss the best path forward in your divorce. Every case is different, and your attorney can help you decide whether to file for a fault-based or no-fault divorce.
What Happens During 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 is often the most contentious and impactful part of the divorce process. 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.).
The outcome of your property division dispute could significantly affect your post-divorce financial stability, so taking the property division process seriously is essential. Texas is a community property state, meaning the court equally divides marital assets and liabilities between the parties.
Marital property is anything that both parties have contributed to. For example, let's say you buy a house before you get married, and only your name is on the deed. Now, suppose that during your marriage, your partner pays for an addition on the house. Assuming the addition contributes to the property's value, the house would become marital property (unless you have a prenup or similar legal contract stating otherwise). The court may ask you to sell the marital house and give you the majority of the profits since you bought the house, but give your soon-to-be-ex a cut since they paid for the addition. If you want to keep the marital home, the court may ask you to "buy out" your spouse by paying them however much the addition cost.
The only assets or liabilities exempt from property division is separate property. Separate property is something you (and only you) explicitly own, like gifts meant only for you, something you bought for yourself before marriage, personal debt, etc.
Property division can quickly get complicated if the parties possess a significant amount of marital property or disagree on how to split it. A property division lawyer will work with financial professionals like certified public accountants (CPAs) specializing in asset valuation to help you identify the best path forward in your property division.
Depending on you and your spouse's financial circumstances, one of you may have to pay the other party spousal maintenance (alimony).
When the court handles processes like property division and alimony, it tries to ensure that both parties maintain the same quality of life post-divorce they enjoyed while married. To achieve that goal, the court might ask one party to financially support the other while the spouse in question applies to jobs or receives the education they need to become more financially stable.
To learn more about how courts handle alimony, check out our spousal maintenance page.
Child Custody & Support
If you share a child (or children) with your spouse, you'll need to develop child custody and support arrangements that further your child's best interests and allow them to thrive post-divorce.
Most courts operate under the presumption that joint custody arrangements (where both parents share roughly the same amount of time with their kid) will benefit the child most, and try to encourage the parents to draft a joint custody parenting plan as a result. Joint custody also has the benefit of reducing the child support burden for whichever party is the noncustodial parent.
However, joint custody arrangements aren't always the best for a child. If you believe your partner is an unfit parent or you deserve more than joint custody, a custody lawyer can help you fight for your parental rights and safeguard your child's future in court.
To learn more about how child custody and support work in Texas, check out our child custody and child support pages.
Cofer & Connelly, PLLC: 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 Austin divorce lawyers 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. We'll 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 law firm that will be by your side the whole way, through thick and thin.