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The Queenan Law Firm

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Dallas Divorce Attorneys

Divorce is usually a very emotional event that can affect you and your family for years to come. Divorce is also a legal matter that can have serious long term consequences. When you are about to begin the divorce process you may have many questions. What are the grounds for divorce? What are the procedures are about to unfold? You should consider all of these questions before you begin the divorce process. While you may have many other questions, this page will provide you with the basics of divorce in Texas.

At the Queenan Law Firm, we tenaciously pursue every case we handle.  Regardless of whether you come to us for assistance with a divorce, a custody dispute, a conflict over property distribution, or you simply have questions about what to include in your prenuptial agreement, we will educate you about your responsibilities while advocating for your rights to the fullest extent possible.  If contention exists between you and your spouse, we aim to use our litigation skills to resolve the dispute in your best interest and that of your children.

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What are the Grounds for a Divorce in Texas?

The Texas Family Code contains most of the laws, which govern divorces and other family law matters in the State of Texas. This code establishes that there are seven grounds upon which a divorce may be granted. However, since the no-fault divorce on the ground of insupportability was introduced in 1969, the other traditional grounds for divorce are rarely encountered.

Texas law allows for both “fault” and "no-fault" divorces. However, in the event that one spouse is the reason that the marriage is ending, then the court may consider that persons conduct when they are considering equitable division of the assets. Under a no-fault divorce, one spouse alleges that the marriage has become "Insupportable. Under Texas law, a divorce may be decreed without regard to fault if the marriage "has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation."  A no-fault divorce is commonly seen as a more gentle form of divorce. This is because under the no-fault system a spouse who is seeking a no-fault divorce does not have to point to any wrongdoing from the other spouse but is merely alleging that they no longer are able to get along with their spouse and that there is no opportunity for them to resolve their problems.

Texas also allows for fault-based divorces. Contrary to a no-fault divorce, in a fault based divorce petition, you are alleging that your spouse has done something wrong and that because of their actions you are seeking the court to grant a divorce. The Texas Family Code has established six grounds for a fault-based divorce:

  1. Cruel Treatment - A divorce may be decreed if the other spouse is guilty of cruel treatment toward the complaining spouse. Cruel treatment is the kind of treatment that renders further living together insupportable. It is not necessary to demonstrate that one spouse physically abused another for the court to grant a fault-based divorce for cruel treatment.
  2. Adultery – Under Section 6.003 of the Family Code, a divorce may be decreed in favor of one spouse if the other spouse has committed adultery.
  3. Conviction of Felony where a spouse is imprisoned for at Least One Year - If a party to a marriage has been convicted of a felony and has been imprisoned in either a state or federal penitentiary for at least one year then the court may grant a fault-based divorce.
  4. Abandonment for More than One Year - "A divorce may be decreed in favor of one spouse if the other spouse left the complaining spouse with the intention of abandonment and remained away for at least one year."
  5. Living Apart for at Least Three Years - A divorce may be decreed in favor of either spouse if the spouses have lived apart without cohabitation for at least three years.
  6. Confinement in Mental Hospital for at Least Three Years - A divorce may be decreed in favor of one spouse if the other spouse has been confined in a federal, state, or private mental hospital for at least three years, and "it appears that the spouse's mental disorder is of such a degree and nature that he is not likely to adjust, or that if he adjusts, it is probable that he will suffer a relapse."

Divorce cases tend to be some of the most contested forms of legal proceedings. It is very common for divorces to go through multiple stages at the court.

What are the Basic Steps for Filing for Divorce?

While every divorce is different the Texas Legislature has established a general guideline for how cases should proceed. However, you should be aware that each divorce case is different and depending on the relationship you have with your soon to be former spouse the process could be slightly different. Generally, a divorce proceeding follows the following steps:

  • Original Petition for Divorce - To file for a divorce in Texas: (i) you and/or your spouse must have lived in Texas for at least six months before filing for divorce; and (ii) you must file in the county in which either you or your spouse has lived for at least ninety days. The spouse who files for divorce is called the Petitioner. The other spouse is called the Respondent. Generally, the first question you should ask yourself or your attorney before you file an original petition for divorce is where you should file the petition.
  • Service of Process - The second step in the divorce process is to legally notify the other party (the “Respondent”) of the Petition for divorce. Under Texas law, you must serve the Respondent in one of the following ways: (1) have the Respondent sign a waiver of citation; (2) hire a private process server or a county constable to personally serve the Respondent with a “citation,” which is formal notice of the filing of the Petition for divorce prepared by the District Clerk; or (3) if, after a diligent search, you cannot locate the address of the Respondent, you may request that the court that Respondent be served by publication or posting
  • Answer and Counter Petition for Divorce - After the Respondent spouse has been notified that a Petition for divorce has been filed, they will then have 20 days after they are served with the notice to file an answer to the petition. Once a Respondent files an Answer, he or she is entitled to receive notice of all court hearings regarding the divorce, and to be present in court for any proceedings in the case. If the Respondent does not file an Answer, it is possible for you to move forward with the divorce without notice to the Respondent until after the case is final.

After the initial filing, service, and answer there is a period of time where the case is going through the court system. Some of these events may include:

  • Temporary Orders Hearing
  • Discovery
  • Mediation
  • Trial
  • Appeal
  • Separation in the Divorce Context

A Court cannot grant a divorce until the Petition for divorce has been pending for at least sixty days. It is during these sixty days that many of the abovementioned events happen. Sometimes this period allows the parties to rethink and reexamine their situation, or it can also be a good time to allow the parties to reach their own agreements concerning marital property, spousal support, and child support.

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How does a Divorce Proceeding End?

If after you have gone through all of these steps the court will generally issue a Final Decree of Divorce.  The Final Decree of Divorce, whether reached by agreement, or decided by the judge, or a jury, should dispose of all issues outstanding in the divorce. Generally, this means that the decree should provide for the division of all community property and all community debt, set forth all matters of child custody and provide for the amount and frequency of child support payments. A Final Decree of Divorce may also provide for the name change of either party to a name previously used.

If you and your spouse have worked out many of the details on your own and are coming to the court with a simple, uncontested divorce, the judge may grant a divorce after hearing testimony as to the terms of your divorce. This is sometimes known as a “prove-up.” However, if your divorce involves contested issues, such as child support, alimony, and property division then the process to receiving a divorce can be longer.  Your divorce is considered final and binding as soon as the judge signs and dates the Final Decree of Divorce.

If You Are a Party to a Divorce Proceeding in Texas, our Lawyers Can Help

To set up a free legal consultation about your family law matter, call the Queenan Law Firm at (817) 719-8082.  With more than 20 years of legal experience successfully representing clients throughout Texas, our attorneys are always eager to put our knowledge and skill to work for you.

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