What is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce in Texas is a divorce in which both parties successfully reach an agreement on each family law issue related to their case. Typically, an uncontested divorce is also a no-fault divorce.
Texas Uncontested Divorce Requirements
To file for an uncontested divorce (also called a dissolution of marriage) in Texas, there are three basic requirements you must meet:
- Texas residency.
- Agreement on why you’re getting a divorce.
- Agreement on all divorce issues.
To get an uncontested divorce in Texas, one party must have lived in the state of Texas for at least six months before filing. The filing party must also have lived in the county where they plan to file for at least 90 days.
Agreement on the Reason for Your Divorce
A legally accepted reason (or ground) is needed for a divorce in Texas. Both fault and no-fault grounds are allowed. In an uncontested or no-fault divorce, neither spouse blames the other for wrongdoing. The most common reason for an uncontested divorce is that the marriage has become insupportable because of incompatibility or irreconcilable differences.
An uncontested divorce can also be based on the spouses having been separated. Still, it’s required you have lived separate and apart for a minimum of three years without cohabitation (sexual relations).
Agreement on Divorce Issues
Before you and your spouse file for an uncontested divorce in Texas, you must agree on all issues in your divorce case, including:
- Grounds for divorce
- Allocation of any outstanding marital and personal debt
- Division of personal property, community property, and real estate
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support, including the responsibility for medical/dental expenses and health insurance for any dependent children from the marriage
- Whether either spouse will pay the other spousal support (spousal maintenance)
- Name changes
- Any other divorce-related issues
If you and your spouse find it challenging to reach an agreement on any divorce issues, mediation can help you find solutions. Most mediators prepare a document detailing any agreements reached during the mediation process. This document can be used to organize your written marital property settlement agreement, sometimes called a property settlement agreement or divorce settlement agreement.
Cost of an Uncontested Texas Divorce
Getting a divorce can be expensive, but an uncontested divorce is generally less costly. The primary expense for an uncontested divorce in Texas is the filing fee paid to the court. The filing fee in Texas varies depending on the county and sometimes if children are involved. Expect to pay around $350. In the case you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, you can request a fee waiver from the court by filing a “Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Costs.”
Except for the filing fee, any other costs depend on whether you get a complete do-it-yourself, uncontested divorce, or if you need any help with the process. Additional costs might come from the following:
- Using online divorce services typically costs between $150 and $500.
- mediation services to help you and your spouse reach a settlement agreement: total costs usually range from $3,000 to $8,000; each spouse is normally responsible for half.
- Dividing employment-related retirement accounts, like a 401(k) or pension, typically costs $300 to $500 for an expert to prepare the “Qualified Domestic Relations Order” (QRDO), a required special court order.
- Settlement agreement review (or draft and review) by a knowledgeable divorce attorney to ensure the settlement agreement is fair. It protects your rights: cost depends on the divorce lawyer’s hourly rate and the amount of time involved.
Uncontested Divorce Process
Specific requirements must be met to file for an uncontested divorce in Texas. The following steps must be followed to have a successful, legally uncontested divorce.
Step 1: Preparing the Paperwork
One party needs to obtain an Original Petition for Divorce in their county of residence. Once the divorce petition has been filled out, it notifies the court and the spouse that they are filing for divorce. The same party also has to complete a Civil Case Information Sheet.
Depending on which Texas county you live in, there may be some additional paperwork.
Step 2: Filing the Petition
Once the necessary paperwork has been completed and signed, you’ll need to file it with the court for the county where you or your spouse have lived for the last 90 days. You’ll provide the district court clerk with your original paperwork and two copies. You can use the court’s electronic filing system or hand-deliver hard copies to the clerk’s office. The clerk will give you file-stamped copies of the documents.
The filing party is responsible for paying the applicable filing fees, which vary by county and are usually between $150 and $300.
Step 3: Spouse Signature
Within one day after the Petition for Divorce has been filed, the responding spouse can sign a Waiver of Service before a notary that states they don’t wish to be formally served by a process server or sheriff.
Step 4: Finalize Settlement Agreement
When finalizing the settlement agreement, both parties fill out and sign the Final Decree of Divorce. The divorce decree contains all necessary information to address property, assets, retirement funds, debts, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, name changes, and other pertinent information.
Step 5: 60-Day Waiting Period
Texas has a mandatory waiting period of 60 days before a final divorce decree is entered. Even for an uncontested divorce, when both parties agree on every issue, the 60-day waiting period still applies.
In cases of family violence, your attorney can help you bypass the 60-day waiting period according to the Texas Family Code.
Step 6: Uncontested Divorce Final Hearing
One or both parties must appear in court before the judge to finalize an uncontested divorce. The judge reviews all legal documents and questions all parties present. If the judge approves the divorce, they sign the Final Decree of Divorce, and now the divorce is final.
Benefits of Uncontested Divorces
Uncontested divorces cost less. Even in cases when each spouse hires an attorney to assist with an uncontested divorce, it’s less expensive. Uncontested divorces also make a big difference in maintaining a civil relationship between spouses, which is particularly important when co-parenting. Since settlement agreements were created together in an uncontested divorce, it’s more likely each party will follow orders after the divorce is finalized. Getting an uncontested divorce is usually much faster than getting a contested divorce.
Hiring a Divorce Attorney in Texas
A divorce is more than the end of a marriage; it’s a very emotional and stressful event. At Ilarraza Law, P.C., we help ease the legal strain of divorce so you can concentrate on the health and well-being of your family.