What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Texas?

Petition to file for divorce on a Texas judge's desk

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Brett Pritchard Law

Updated on March 27, 2024

If you have started thinking about divorce, you should understand the different types of divorce in Texas before going to court to file your papers.

While the vast majority of divorces in Texas are no-fault, some divorces are based on fault, which must be proven. Whether you choose a fault or no-fault divorce, your petition must be based on at least one ground. Under Texas law, there are seven grounds for divorce.

Depending on which ground is invoked, your divorce may be classified as either a fault or no-fault divorce. The classification of your divorce will have a significant effect on various aspects of your divorce, including the following agreements:

  • Child custody

  • Spousal support

  • Division of property

It is highly advised to consult with a Williamson County divorce lawyer to understand your legal rights and determine which type of divorce you need in your specific situation.

The Differences Between Fault and No-Fault Divorces

It’s essential to understand the difference between a fault-based and no-fault divorce in order to make an informed decision and choose the right type of divorce for your particular situation.

As mentioned earlier, whether you pursue a fault or no-fault divorce in Texas will have a major impact on the outcome of your case. For example, your marital assets may not be split equally if your spouse files for a fault divorce on the grounds of adultery and can prove that you had an extramarital affair.

A fault divorce requires the Petitioner (the spouse filing an Original Petition for Divorce) to prove that the other spouse (the Respondent) is responsible for the destruction of their marriage. Some wronged spouses gain comfort and closure from identifying their partners as being responsible for the divorce. Divorce is an emotional journey, and considering your feelings is always valid.

On the other hand, a no-fault divorce does not require either party to assign fault for the dissolution of marriage. However, you still need grounds for a no-fault divorce in Texas.

Whether you are seeking a fault or no-fault divorce, it is best to contact a Williamson County divorce lawyer to understand how to proceed in your particular situation.

No-Fault Grounds for Divorce

While there may be some benefits of seeking a fault divorce in Texas, most couples file for a no-fault divorce for these reasons:

  1. A no-fault divorce is less adversarial, stressful, and emotionally taxing than a fault divorce.

  2. The Petitioner does not have to prove the other spouse’s fault.

  3. No-fault divorces are less time-consuming than fault-based divorces.

  4. No-fault divorces are usually less expensive than fault-based divorces.

While a spouse seeking a no-fault divorce does not need to prove that their spouse was at fault, they still need to cite a reason for the divorce before a court will grant it. Here are several examples of common no-fault divorce grounds in Texas:

Insupportability

Most divorcing couples seeking a no-fault divorce cite the ground of “insupportability.” Under Texas Family Code § 6.001, a court will grant a divorce on the grounds of insupportability if the marriage was destroyed by “discord or conflict of personalities” and the parties don’t have “reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” Insupportability is closely associated with quicker and cheaper divorces.

Technically, you’ll need to prove that your relationship is no longer viable, but simply telling the judge that your marriage isn’t working generally suffices. The fact that you’re seeking a divorce, even if your spouse doesn’t agree with you, shows that the legitimate ends of your marital relationship have been destroyed and that there is no reasonable expectation that you and your spouse will patch things up.

In other words, anyone who wants a no-fault divorce in Texas can obtain one. You won’t be barred from obtaining a divorce because you are unable to prove insupportability.

Living Apart

While Texas does not recognize legal separations, it will consider a separation of three years or more as a potentially valid means of securing a no-fault divorce.

You can invoke the ground of living apart for a no-fault divorce in Texas if you and your spouse have been living apart for over three years. This ground can be more complicated if your spouse is living out of state. Consult with a Williamson County divorce lawyer to know how to move forward.

If you’ve lived apart for a long time and are unable to locate your spouse, you’ll need to jump through several legal hoops to try to find him or her. If these steps prove unsuccessful, the court will likely divide the marital property by awarding you everything in your possession, which can expedite the process and allow you to move forward with your post-divorce life.

Confinement in Psychiatric Care

If your spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for at least three years (with no real chance of recovery), it can be an uncommon but not unheard-of mechanism for obtaining a no-fault divorce in Texas.

This ground is used to protect the financial rights of the spouse who requires long-term care and can’t advocate for him or herself. In response, the court will likely assign a guardian ad litem (GAL) to stand up for your impaired spouse’s legal rights.

As you can see, seeking a no-fault divorce can be tricky in Texas. That is why it is highly advised to consult with a knowledgeable divorce lawyer to explore your options as the Petitioner.

Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce

True to its maverick ways, Texas is one of the last states that continue to offer divorce based on fault.

Fault-based divorces generally take longer, cost more, and air more dirty laundry (divorce records are public records). However, pursuing a fault-based divorce can influence your divorce terms, including alimony, the division of marital property, and, in some rare cases, your child custody arrangements.

It’s important to remember that, in order to acquire a fault-based divorce, you must be able to prove your accusation of fault. This proof can be based on testimony from witnesses with close knowledge of the wrongdoing or on documentation and supporting evidence.

Fault can come in many forms. Texas Family Code Chapter 6 Subchapter A recognizes some of the most common fault-based grounds for divorce, including adultery, cruelty, felony criminal conviction, and abandonment.

Cruelty

Courts can grant a divorce on the grounds of cruelty if the requesting spouse proves that they suffered physically or mentally as a result of their spouse’s willful and cruel treatment. The cruel treatment must be so significant and unbearable to the point that living together becomes “insupportable.”

Both physical and emotional abuse can count toward grounds of cruelty. Texas takes domestic violence very seriously, and your primary concern in such situations is ensuring your and your children's safety.

Each case of alleged cruelty must be examined on its own merits. Because cruelty can be subjective, the court will look for the purposeful and persistent infliction of unnecessary physical or emotional suffering. Constant bickering will likely not suffice.

Adultery

Adultery, which can be found in Texas Family Code § 6.003, is defined as “the voluntary sexual intercourse” between a married person and another person other than the married person’s spouse. An emotional affair or a romantic relationship that hasn’t reached this level of sexual intercourse will not suffice for a divorce that’s based on fault in Texas.

You can seek a fault divorce based on adultery if you can prove your spouse’s infidelity. However, because the party charged with being at fault for the divorce typically denies it, these divorces generally aren’t resolved out of court. You can expect your case to go to court, where you’ll need to prove that your spouse is having a sexual relationship with someone else.

If you are able to prove your spouse’s fault, it can directly affect how your marital property is divided and may better position you for alimony, but it is unlikely to affect child custody. Unless there are extenuating circumstances where the person your spouse is seeing is unfit to be around your children, your ex’s parenting time schedule likely won’t be affected.

You should know that your spouse’s adultery could affect how the terms of your divorce are decided, even in a case that’s based on insupportability. If your divorce goes to court, the judge has considerable discretion over property division and alimony – based on relevant factors that include wrongdoing, such as adultery.

Conviction of a Felony

The third ground for a fault divorce in Texas can be invoked when your spouse is convicted of a felony. The court will grant a divorce based on a felony conviction if your spouse was convicted of a felony during the course of your marriage, sentenced to at least 12 months in jail, and wasn’t pardoned.

The court would not grant a divorce due to a conviction of a felony if your spouse were convicted based on your testimony, but you can still obtain a divorce on other grounds.

Abandonment

If your spouse has voluntarily left or abandoned you for over a year with no return visits, you could file for a divorce on the grounds of abandonment. Learn how to prove abandonment in a divorce.

No matter what grounds you are pursuing, you need to be able to prove them to obtain a divorce.

FAQ about Grounds for Divorce

Consider the answers to the following frequently asked questions in relation to your own concerns regarding fault-based divorce.

It’s Obvious that My Spouse Is Having an Affair. Do I Really Need to Prove It?

If you want to pursue a divorce that’s based on adultery, you’ll need to prove that your spouse is having a sexual relationship with another person. While your spouse may not confess their affair, and while obtaining pictures of them in the act is likely out of the question, there are other forms of evidence that can tell a compelling story.

For example, the exchange of texts, photos, videos, and emails between your spouse and their paramour on their phones, tablets, and computers may be all you need. Your resourceful Williamson County divorce attorney will help to ensure that you have the necessary evidence to prove the divorce ground of adultery.

What Can I Do If I Haven’t Seen My Spouse in Years and Can’t Locate Him or Her?

Texas courts have certain requirements in situations that leave spouses living apart for years or that leave one spouse abandoned for at least a year. Once these requirements are unsuccessfully exhausted, you can seek a divorce without your spouse’s input. A spouse that you can’t locate likely doesn’t want to be located, which means the required legal efforts are unlikely to produce him or her.

Turn to a Dedicated Williamson County Divorce Attorney for the Help You Need

At The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, our knowledgeable and reputable divorce attorneys will explain how the different types of divorce can affect your unique situation. Schedule a FREE case review by calling (254) 781-4222 or filling out this contact form.

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