Your Texas Divorce Timeline

Man and woman considering divorce in Texas

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Brett Pritchard Law

Updated on April 27, 2023

If you are facing a divorce, you are naturally concerned about how long it will take and what the process will look like. Understanding the Texas divorce timeline can help you move forward with greater purpose while helping to alleviate some of the stress.

If you have been served with divorce papers or have come to the difficult determination that you need a divorce, the most important first step you can take is to consult with an experienced Killeen divorce attorney.

The Bottom Line

Texas has a mandatory 60-day waiting period between the time you file for divorce and the time your divorce is finalized. Therefore, your divorce cannot be obtained any sooner than 60 days after you file (barring very exacting exceptions).

However, it is usually very challenging to resolve all the terms of a divorce in less than 60 days, and most divorces require more time than this to be finalized. Your divorce determines your financial and parental rights and, as such, should not be rushed.

Your Divorce Terms

Your divorce will reflect your unique marriage, but the terms that need to be resolved remain the same across the board.

The Division of Your Marital Property

Those assets that you and your spouse acquired when you were a married couple are considered marital property, which is distinct from the assets you brought into the marriage with you (your separate property). However, the line dividing the separate property from the marital property is often blurred.

In the event of divorce, you and your divorcing spouse will need to divide your marital assets between you in an equitable manner, which means that the division is fair in relation to a wide range of relevant factors.

Some of the primary factors that come into play in the division of marital property include the following considerations:

  • The age, overall health, current earnings, and earning potential of each spouse

  • The length of the marriage

  • The separate assets owned by each spouse

  • The costs associated with raising the children

  • Any role that wrongdoing played in the dissolution of the marriage

  • Any role that spending down, dissipating, or otherwise hiding marital assets played

Obtaining a fair division of marital assets will play a primary role in your financial future. As such, it’s essential to work closely with a divorce attorney to ensure your rights are protected.

Your Child Custody Terms

In Texas, child custody is addressed in terms of both legal custody and physical custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody determines who will be taking on the overarching parenting decisions, such as those concerning the following arrangements:

You and your children’s other parent can continue making these decisions together (one of you may hold tie-breaking power), you can divide them between yourselves according to the kind of decision that needs to be made, or one of you can shoulder the responsibility on your own.

Decisions that need to be made on a regular and ongoing basis are the responsibility of the parent who has the children at the time, and emergency decisions must be made by the parent who is most readily available at the time of the emergency.

Physical Custody

Physical custody determines how you and your ex will divide your parenting time between your shared children. There are two basic approaches to physical custody:

  1. One of you becomes the primary custodial parent, which means the children live primarily with this parent and the other parent has a visitation schedule.

  2. You and your children’s other parent share your parenting time evenly or nearly evenly.

Best Interest Factors

Texas courts are always guided by the best interests of the involved children when they make custody determinations, and some of the primary factors involved in child custody decisions include the following considerations:

  • The overall physical and mental health of each parent and each child

  • Each parent’s preferences

  • Each child’s preferences if the child in question is mature enough to address this topic reasonably

  • Each child’s unique needs, including any identified special needs

  • Each parent’s level of involvement with raising the children to date

  • Each parent’s ability and propensity to provide the children with the care and attention that they each need

  • Each parent’s ability and propensity to support the other parent’s ongoing relationship with the children

  • Each parent’s ability and propensity to do what it takes to co-parent effectively

  • Any factors the court finds important to consider in the case at hand

The bottom line is that – barring a reason for ruling otherwise – the court is motivated to maximize the amount of time both parents are allowed to spend with the children.

Child Support

Child support is calculated according to the state’s exacting guidelines, which consider wide-ranging factors. Generally, however, the number of overnights each parent has with the children and each parent’s income play the most important role in determining child support.

You can typically expect the higher earner among you to pay child support to the other (even if you divide your parenting time straight down the middle).

Alimony

Many divorces do not address the matter of alimony – or spousal maintenance – but when it is appropriate, it can play an important role in the financial rights of the recipient. Alimony is set up to help balance a financial discrepancy brought on by divorce.

Alimony is considered appropriate in those circumstances in which one spouse experiences a financial setback with divorce and in which the other has the ability to help offset it. Alimony is typically intended to last only as long as the recipient needs to gain greater financial independence (such as through education or job training).

In Texas, one of the following situations must apply before alimony is awarded:

  • You were married for at least ten years, and divorce will leave you without the financial means to support yourself.

  • Your spouse was convicted of family violence against you or your child within two years of the divorce filing.

  • You have a mental or physical disability that leaves you unable to support yourself financially.

  • You are responsible for taking care of a disabled child of your marriage, which leaves you unable to support yourself financially.

When alimony is deemed appropriate, its amount and duration are determined in relation to factors like the following:

  • The length of your marriage

  • Your education, job skills, and earning potential as compared to your spouse’s

  • Your age and overall physical and mental health as compared to your spouse’s

  • How child support payments affect your spouse’s ability to pay alimony

  • Your financial resources as compared to your spouse’s, including any separate assets

  • Any hiding or dissipation of marital funds in the buildup to divorce

  • Any contributions you made to your spouse’s education, professional career, or overall earning power

  • You and your spouse’s financial contributions to the marriage, including those related to childrearing and housekeeping

  • Any concerns related to domestic violence, child neglect, or child abuse

  • Any marital misconduct

  • Any additional factors the court considers relevant

Contact a divorce attorney to discuss the possibility of alimony factoring into your divorce case.

If You and Your Divorcing Spouse Are in Complete Agreement

If you and your divorcing spouse are in complete agreement regarding every divorce term that applies in your situation, you can expect your divorce to proceed as smoothly as a divorce can.

Even if this is your situation, it is important to recognize that the court’s dockets are often clogged, and divorce after only 60 days may not be possible. Ultimately, your divorce will be finalized on your scheduled court date, which will depend entirely on availability within the court’s schedule.

Finally, if you and your spouse do not see eye-to-eye regarding every term of divorce that applies to your situation (which is far more common), you can expect your divorce to take considerably more time.

To begin, you, your divorcing spouse, and your respective divorce attorneys will attempt to negotiate terms between yourselves; from here, you can look to a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation.

If you exhaust your options outside of court, you will need the court’s intervention to resolve those terms that remain unresolved. The amount of time it takes to finalize your divorce in this situation will depend upon varying factors, but the more contentious your divorce, the more likely it is to drag on.

The Basic Schedule

The basic schedule for divorce involves specific steps.

Pre-Filing Preparations

Before you file for divorce, there are some steps you’ll need to take. These preliminary steps can take several weeks in and of themselves.

Deciding on Divorce

Making the determination that divorce is the right answer for you is the first step in the process. If you are not sure, it is important to explore your options regarding saving your marriage. However, if you have already been served with divorce papers or have no doubts regarding your decision to divorce, this step is taken care of.

Finding a Divorce Attorney

Consulting with an attorney prior to filing is the next step. Having an experienced divorce attorney on your side from the outset not only helps to ensure that your parental and financial rights are protected but also helps to ensure that your divorce will proceed as smoothly as possible.

Qualifying under the Residency Requirements

Texas – just like every other state – has residency requirements that must be met in order to file for divorce in the state:

  • You, your spouse, or both of you must live in Texas for at least six months prior to filing.

  • You, your spouse, or both of you must live in the county in which you file for at least 90 days prior to filing.

Unlike some other states, Texas has no separation requirements in relation to divorce. You and your spouse can live with one another or apart from one another throughout the divorce process.

Filing for Divorce

Once you have determined that you are ready to proceed with a divorce and have established what lies ahead, it is time to file a petition for the dissolution of your marriage. Because this petition will include your requests regarding divorce terms, you should not rush its creation.

The spouse who files for divorce is known as the petitioner in Texas, and this spouse is responsible for serving the other with the divorce papers, which can be done in person – via a process server – or through certified mail.

When neither of these approaches proves successful, the court may allow alternate means, which have been extended to include email and even social media in the state. Alternatively, your spouse can waive the right to service, and you can simply share the divorce papers with them.

The Waiting Period

After filing for divorce, you will need to wait the required 60-day waiting period. If you are able to hammer out mutually acceptable divorce terms during this time, you can finalize your divorce upon the court’s earliest availability.

Unlike many other states, Texas does not require couples to separate formally prior to divorce. As such, it is recommended to remain in the family home during the waiting period – especially if your priority is to become the primary custodial parent or to split your parenting time as evenly as possible.

Response

Once the petitioner has filed for divorce and had his or her spouse served with the divorce papers, the other spouse has about four weeks to respond by doing one of the following:

  • Accepting the terms delineated in the petition

  • Contesting the matter

  • Asking for an extension (in which both spouses can attempt to reach an agreement)

Your skilled Killeen divorce attorney can help you with this step whether you are expecting a response or filing one.

If you and your divorcing spouse are able to meet in the middle on the applicable terms, moving forward from here can be very straightforward. If not, you could be looking at a difficult journey ahead.

Negotiations

From here, you and your soon-to-be-ex will enter into negotiations in which you attempt to hammer out those terms that remain unresolved.

If your priorities match up nicely and your terms require only a bit of tweaking, this portion of the divorce process may not hold you up too much. If there is considerable distance between you on the unresolved terms, you can expect it to gobble up a considerable amount of time and effort.

Because the terms of your divorce do, however, represent your financial rights – as well as your rights as a parent – they are too important to rush. Take time during negotiations to collect evidentiary documentation on both sides via the discovery process and work closely with a divorce lawyer to protect your rights.

Temporary Orders

If your divorce seems destined to drag on for a bit and if you and your divorcing spouse will be living separately throughout the process, either one of you can request temporary orders that guide matters such as the following while your divorce is pending:

  • Who will remain in the family home with the kids

  • Who will be responsible for which bills

  • How you will divide your time with the children

  • How the issue of community debt will be addressed

  • How the issues of temporary child support and temporary spousal support will be resolved

The Final Divorce Hearing

Any terms that remain unresolved after you and your divorcing spouse have tried every negotiation tool at your disposal will need to be determined at trial.

An important note here is that if your divorcing spouse is determined to keep your divorce as contentious as possible, your best bet may be to limit negotiations and move forward toward court earlier in the process. Sometimes, cutting your losses in these matters is the only way to limit your exposure to divorce toxicity.

Once you reach the stage of needing the court’s intervention, you will very likely require only a day or two of the court’s time – in accordance with the court’s availability – before your divorce can be finalized.

Factors that Tend to Prolong the Divorce Process

Certain factors have a tendency to drag out the divorce process, and if any of the following apply to you, you can expect your divorce to require additional time to resolve:

  • You and your divorcing spouse share children and you both want primary custody.

  • Your divorce involves high assets or another kind of financial complication, such as business ownership.

  • Your spouse is invested in fighting the divorce from the outset.

  • Your separate and marital assets intermingle.

  • You have a prenuptial agreement that one of you intends to fight.

FAQ

The answers to the following frequently asked questions related to the divorce process in Texas can help:

What are the exceptions to the sixty-day waiting period?

The court will only waive the required sixty-day cooling-off period prior to finalizing a divorce if one of these two situations applies to the case in question:

  • If a spouse has been convicted of a charge related to family violence or has received deferred adjudication for such an offense

  • If a spouse has an active restraining order related to family violence

What are the grounds for divorce?

The State of Texas allows no-fault divorce. In fact, the vast majority of Texas divorces are no-fault, which are based on insupportability (or what you may think of as irreconcilable differences). No-fault divorces tend to be less expensive, less lengthy, and less emotionally fraught than fault-based divorces.

However, just because your divorce is no-fault does not mean that your spouse’s wrongdoing will be deemed irrelevant. Texas courts have discretion when it comes to resolving divorce terms and will consider any factors deemed relevant to the case. If your spouse’s wrongdoing is considered relevant to the divorce term being resolved, the court will not ignore the matter.

Pursuing a divorce that is not based on your spouse’s fault in the matter is generally a far speedier process than proving your spouse’s fault to the court (which is required unless your spouse admits to the accusation). However, there are some situations in which fault-based divorce is a better choice.

Texas recognizes several grounds for fault-based divorce:

  • Adultery

  • Abandonment of at least one year

  • Cruel treatment

  • Conviction of a felony or incarceration of at least one year

  • Confinement to a mental hospital for at least three years

What’s the difference between contested and uncontested divorce?

The dividing line between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce is whether every divorce term that applies in your case is ultimately resolved between you and your spouse. If this is not the case and at least one of your divorce terms requires the court's intervention, your case is contested.

It does not matter how you and your divorcing spouse come to your final determinations – just that you do – in order for your divorce to be classified as uncontested. If even one of your divorce terms is resolved in court, your divorce is classified as contested. Contested divorces are naturally more challenging, costly, and time-consuming.

In your efforts to resolve every divorce term that applies to your case, you can pursue all the following forms of negotiation:

  • Engaging in negotiations between yourselves

  • Engaging in guided negotiations with your respective divorce attorneys

  • Allowing your respective divorce attorneys to negotiate between themselves on behalf of each of your wishes

  • Proceeding to mediation where you and your divorce attorney and your spouse and their attorney will engage in guided negotiations with a professional mediator who will help you explore your best options within the context of how the court is likely to rule

You and your spouse can resolve any remaining divorce terms between yourselves – keeping your divorce uncontested – up until the time the court makes its final rulings in your case.

The only other avenue for obtaining an uncontested divorce is when one spouse files for divorce but the other fails to respond or show up in court. In these instances, the court rules in accordance with the information provided by the spouse who filed.

Will my divorce petition expire?

Many couples considering divorce wonder, “Can a divorce petition expire?” While your divorce petition will not expire per se, the court will likely move it to what is known as its dismissal docket if it has been hanging around for a specific amount of time (with little to no related activity).

In such a situation, the only way to revive your petition prior to dismissal is to file a Motion to Retain, which must include a set trial date. Otherwise, your case will be dismissed for want of prosecution.

Reach out to an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a savvy divorce attorney who is well prepared to help efficiently guide your case toward its most beneficial resolution. To learn more, please do not wait to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.

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