What Is the First Step in Filing for Divorce in Houston, TX?

Whether you have been considering a divorce for quite some time or have only recently made the decision to end your marriage, taking the first step can be overwhelming. For many people, the best course of action when you reach the decision to file for divorce is to enlist the help of an experienced professional to guide you along the way. Your qualified attorney will help you begin your divorce proceedings and stand by you throughout the entire journey. 

The intricacies of divorce law vary greatly from state to state. In the state of Texas, the first step in filing for divorce states that one of the two parties involved must file the “Original Petition for Divorce” with the court. At this time, there will also be filing fees that must be paid in full. By filing this petition, you are legally initiating the divorce process. After your petition has been filed, the court clerk will issue your divorce a case number. 

Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce in Texas?

It’s important to note that when discussing divorce proceedings, the party who files the “Original Petition for Divorce” is referred to as the Petitioner, and the party who is served with the divorce petition is called the Respondent. The steps involved in working with your attorney will vary slightly depending on whether you are the Petitioner or the Respondent.

How Much Does it Cost to File for Divorce in Texas?

While the cost of your divorce as a whole will vary greatly based on your own unique situation, the filing fee for a divorce in the state of Texas is approximately $300. If you need to hire someone to service your spouse with divorce papers, you may also need to pay for a Service Fee, which will vary.

Serving Divorce Papers

Once the “Original Petition for Divorce” has been filed by the Petitioner under the guidance of their attorney, the Respondent must then be notified. Usually, the Respondent will be served with divorce papers, which will require them to “answer the court,” or respond, by a specified deadline. In the event that the Respondent fails to do so, the Petitioner can ultimately seek a default order from the Court. In situations where the divorce is not a surprise to either party, the Respondent also has the option to hire an attorney in advance of the petition being filed and can request the attorney formally accept the divorce papers.

Receiving Divorce Papers

When the Respondent receives divorce papers, also referred to as “service,” they should read the documents through thoroughly. If they have not already, this is the moment at which they should strongly consider hiring legal counsel. Before “answering” the court with a response to the Petition for Divorce, the Respondent should speak with their attorney. The attorney will then file a response on your behalf, and that response will vary due to the unique nature of each divorce situation. 

How Long Do You Have to be Separated Before You Can File for a Divorce in Texas?

In the state of Texas, you are permitted to file for a divorce under either fault or no-fault grounds. In the case of a no-fault divorce, the two parties must only show that the marriage is not working. A no-fault divorce means that neither party is blaming the other, but at the same time, there is no hope for a reconciliation. In the case of a fault divorce, one party may blame the other for actions that include cruelty, insanity, abandonment, and adultery. While Texas does not recognize legal separation, living apart for a period of three years or more would be considered grounds for divorce. In the state of Texas, couples must wait a minimum period of sixty days before being granted a divorce.

What Should I Do After Filing for Divorce?

Once you and your spouse have filed all of the paperwork required to begin the divorce process, you must then shift gears and begin preparing for the actual proceedings. The work you do during this time, with guidance and advice from your attorney, is critical and can have a tremendous impact on the final outcome of your divorce case. You will be responsible for gathering a large amount of personal information, including personal identifying documents, such as social security information, passports, and the like. Then, you will be asked to provide your attorney with all of your financial information. Even if you are unsure what is or is not relevant, it is best to give your attorney everything available and let them decide what they need. These documents include bank statements, tax returns, investment portfolios, retirement, accounts, and any relevant documentation pertaining to any other assets that either you or your spouse may own. The most important thing you can do during this phase is be as comprehensive as possible; the more information your attorney has, the better prepared they will be to argue in favor of your best interest.

In the state of Texas, divorce laws also stipulate that you and your spouse each provide specific types of financial information to one another’s legal teams within thirty days following the date the Respondent’s answer to the Original Petition for Divorce was filed.

While the hope is that both parties can remain honorable and civil to one another during the course of divorce proceedings, it’s also better to be safe than sorry. As you embark on the process of your divorce, it is recommended that you change your mailing address, email address, and any relevant passwords to online accounts in order to protect yourself and your personal information during this time. It is crucial to prevent any documents or sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.

Another step you may want to consider taking during this time is opening your own bank account. It is not recommended that you attempt to hide or waste any funds, however if you choose to conserve resources you are permitted to do so as long as you are honest in disclosing them. Be sure to keep records of all of your financial activity in case it proves necessary down the road.

The Road to Divorce

Regardless of how much time you spend reading and educating yourself about divorce, and no matter how much time you spend preparing, it is impossible to be ready for every scenario. It is also important not to underestimate that the process of getting a divorce is as challenging emotionally as it is logistically, no matter how long you’ve been anticipating it or how necessary it may be.

Divorce is sometimes an unpredictable journey, which is why it is vital to have an experienced attorney who is familiar with local and state divorce laws advocating on your behalf. While divorce may be a brand new experience for you, your attorney has been through the process many times over and understands the complexity of the dissolution of marriage. You and your attorney will work together from the very first step of filing your petition until your divorce order is signed by a judge to secure a desirable outcome that is beneficial to all parties involved.