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Steps Can You Expect to Follow in a Divorce Lawsuit (Step 1: Filing)

All family law and divorce cases in Texas follow the same sequence of steps. Think of it this way: each step, which itself requires a series of smaller moves and processes, allow all parties to stop litigating and settle their differences out of court. If this is not possible, the parties go through each step until trial, and finally, the final divorce decree.

Either way, pursuing a divorce can get messy fast, especially if you don’t see eye to eye with your spouse and you don’t have a Texas divorce attorney. Having an attorney to represent you ensures that the divorce process is as smooth and quick as possible. A divorce attorney understands the ins and outs of the Texas Family Code and divorce law, and will know which strategies to use in order to come up with a fair resolution on your behalf.

In this guide, we will start with the first step of the divorce process: filing the divorce lawsuit.

What to Expect When Filling a Divorce Lawsuit in Texas

Although this step is perhaps the easiest and most straightforward part in the entire divorce process, you still need to meet specific requirements to initiate the divorce.

Under the Texas Family Code, you will need to file a Petition for Divorce with the District Clerk or the County Clerk in the county where you were a resident for the past three months, provided you have been a Texas resident for at least six months. What if you and your spouse have already been living separately in two different counties? This raises the possibility of filing a Petition in either county. The general rule is that whoever files the lawsuit first in the court of their residence can force the judge to dismiss the second case, allowing the divorce to proceed in one court only.

Things can get complicated here. If you’re an Austin resident, it’s imperative that you talk to an Austin divorce attorney.

Stating Your Grounds for the Divorce

Your petition must state your grounds for divorcing your spouse. This may include one or more of the following:

  • Insupportability
  • Confinement in a mental hospital
  • Cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Felony conviction
  • Abandonment
  • Living apart

Your attorney will also address several factors in the initial petition, in particular, any pre- or post-nuptial agreements.

Serving the Texas Divorce Lawsuit

After processing, the Petitioner (the initiating party) must ensure the divorce lawsuit is served to the other spouse, also known as the Respondent. This is usually done by a private process server, a constable, or a sheriff. Two documents will be presented to the Respondent:

  • The actual petition, which contains the details of the divorce, including the grounds for the dissolution of the marriage
  • The citation, which is a court document notifying the other spouse that he or she is being sued

If the Respondent fails to file an answer to the lawsuit within 21 days of officially being served, the case is default, which means it is possible to complete the divorce proceedings without involving the Respondent.

Generally speaking, there will be a 60-day waiting period from the date of filing the petition before the judge grants a final divorce decree. But this waiting period may be waived if the court determines the Respondent has been convicted of domestic violence against the Petitioner or the Petitioner’s household.

If you have more questions about divorce in Texas you would like to ask a qualified divorce attorney about, get in touch with Austin family law attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225, or use our contact form to schedule a consultation about your case.

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