Divorces are always tough because they mark the end of a long relationship that, in some cases, has spanned a number of years. The dissolution of the marriage can be emotionally taxing and can take a lot out of a person. And to make matters worse, the actual process of filing for a divorce is definitely not easy either, especially if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on the terms of your divorce. The easiest, least stressful way to end the marriage is through an uncontested divorce, where the spouses agree on the reasons for divorce and all other matters pertaining to their financial and personal lives.
What Constitutes an Uncontested Divorce in Texas?
The definition of an uncontested divorce in Texas is no different than how one defines uncontested divorce in other parts of the country. A divorce is “uncontested” when the petitioner (divorce filer) and the respondent (the spouse) are in total agreement about getting a divorce and the respondent does not file a challenge to the petitioner’s documents.
The file for an uncontested divorce in Texas, the request has to be made using a ‘No Fault’ grounds. A no fault ground postulates that the couple are incompatible due to a clash of personalities or have irreconcilable differences that do not allow them to stay in the marital relationship.
Eligibility Criteria for Filing an Uncontested Divorce in Texas
You can only file an uncontested divorce in Texas if you (or your spouse) fulfill each eligibility criteria. If you do not understand the criteria and file your divorce in the wrong Texas county, dismissal is imminent. The criteria include:
1. You or your spouse must have lived in the state of Texas for a minimum of 6 months.
2. You or your spouse must have lived in the county for a period of 90 days where you are filing your divorce.
3. There is complete agreement between you and your spouse on all financial (property division, alimony and spousal support) and children related (child custody, visitation and child support) matters.
Steps to Follow to Finalize Your Uncontested Divorce in Texas
The state of Texas has a well-defined systematic program for filing and finalizing uncontested divorces that is possible even without an attorney or lawyer. The paperwork is not complicated, but you will have to fill out a number of forms and file them with the court in order to get your divorce finalized.
Minor differences in your marital relationship can have an impact on the paperwork you would need. For instance, if you have no children below the age of 18, there will be less paperwork compared to if you have minor children. The general steps that are necessary regardless of the conditions related to an uncontested divorce include:
· Step 1: Draft and File “Original Petition for Divorce”
This is the main document that you file with the Texas District Court to apply for a divorce. The Original Petition for Divorce sets the filer as the petitioner and the other spouse as the respondent. It identifies if the respondent needs to be served with the petition or if there is an understanding with the spouse that he/she will sign a ‘Waiver of Service’ form. It also sets your date of marriage and date of separation, grounds for divorce, and clarifies the terms requested for children and property/other financial obligations. It is best if the spouses agree on each matter of the petition, as any surprises in the petition could lead to a conflict, causing the divorce to become “contested” and require lawyers.
You will be required to pay a filing fee with the petition. The fee varies from county to county. There is the possibility of waiver for the filing fees in situations of financial hardship. To request a waiver, you will have to complete a “Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs” form.
· Step 2: Prepare a Civil Case Information Sheet
Though the Texas Supreme Court has withdrawn the rule to file this document, it is still better to take it with your Petition to be sure that you will not need to make another trip in case the court clerk points to a condition where it is needed.
· Step 3: Ask your Spouse for Waiver of Service or Respondent’s Original Answer Form
You will need to present your spouse with a copy of the Petition you have already filed and then ask the spouse to provide you with a waiver of service form or Respondent’s Original Answer form.
The Waiver of Service form needs a signature, one day after the petition has been filed, in front of a notary. It allows the court to award the divorce if an agreement is reached on “Final Decree of Divorce” without the need for the spouse to be present.
The Respondent’s Original Answer form does not require signature in front of a notary, with the other difference being that it points out all properties that the respondent owned before the start of marriage.
· Step 4: Fill out the Final Decree of Divorce Form
This document contains all the agreements between you and your spouse as part of your uncontested divorce. The petitioner and respondent must sign the form in front of a notary. If there are minor children whose custody, visitation etc. is also to be decided, the Final Decree of Divorce form will be different, and you will need to file a Standard Possession Order Form for your case.
· Step 5: Wait for 2 Months
The state of Texas requires a cooling off period of 60 days. During this time, the petition can be withdrawn if the petitioner and respondent decide to give their relationship another try. If the petition and other documents stay filed for the 60 days, the divorce will be awarded the next working day. The 60-day period includes all holidays and starts the day you filed the “Original Petition for Divorce”.
· Step 6: Prepare a Testimony and Go to Court
You must prepare a testimony where you detail the agreement and your reasons for divorce. The judge may require you to read your testimony before awarding the “uncontested” divorce. You will need to take all the documents that you have filed with you to the final hearing. You will also need the “Austin Form”, legally called Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form.
· Step 7: Pickup your Certified Final Decree of Divorce
Once the judge has authorized the decree, you will need to take it to the clerk who will then provide you with certified copies of all the documents the judge signed. Make sure one copy goes to each spouse.
DIY Divorce vs. Online Divorce Service vs. Divorce Attorneys
Uncontested divorces are far easier than contested divorces. The paperwork for uncontested divorces, however, can still be cumbersome. A number of online resources are available that can help you if you want to do it all by yourself. The possibility of filing the documents online makes life easier too. This is probably best if you are good with paperwork and understand the legal implications of what you write in your forms. The cost of divorce is the lowest with DIY, as you will be only required to pay the filing and document fee.
Online divorce services are a great option for couples that find the paperwork to be too difficult or just don’t want the hassle. The online service provides guidance every step of the way and makes the paperwork process quick, easy, and very affordable. Divorce over the internet is the best choice if there are no complications expected in the process from your spouse.
Divorce attorneys are usually expensive and therefore, not a good option for uncontested divorces. They should only be consulted if there is a significant conflict or a legal misunderstanding that is making any party uncomfortable with the agreement. In any case, this is the most expensive solution, and you should only seek this option after you have exhausted other means of getting a divorce in Texas.