Common Questions About Divorce
Authored By: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid - Austin
Can I represent myself in a divorce?
Yes. Get a lawyer if you can, though. Divorces can be complicated. This is especially true if there are custody, support or property issues. Be prepared if you must represent yourself. Take your witnesses, papers and evidence to the hearing.
Do I need to get a divorce?
There are two kinds of marriage in Texas: formal and informal. If you want to end either one of these kinds of marriage, you need to get a divorce.
A formal marriage is when you were married in a church or by a justice of the peace.
An informal marriage is also called "common-law marriage."
"Common-law marriage" means you had three things:
- You and your husband or wife agreed to be married
- You and your husband or wife lived together in Texas
- You and your husband acted like you were married
What if we got married in Mexico, or in another state?
If you marry someone in Mexico (or some other country or state), the marriage is also valid in the United States, and a divorce would be required in order to dissolve the marriage. Regardless of where you were married, you can get a divorce in Texas if you or your spouse meet the Texas six-month residency requirement.
How long do I have to live in Texas to file for divorce?
You can file for divorce in Texas if you OR your husband or wife has lived in Texas for six months. One of you also has to live in the county where you want to file for divorce for 90 days.
What is "no-fault" divorce?
You don't need "fault" to file for divorce in Texas. Just one of you has to believe that the relationship can't be fixed.
What are other "grounds" for divorce?
In Texas, you can ask the court to give you the divorce because it was somebody's fault. The "grounds" are: adultery, cruelty, abandonment (for at least one year), convicted for a felony (and served at least one year), living apart (for three years), committed to a mental institution (for three years with little or no hope of recovery).
When a court gives a divorce for "grounds," then the court can give more of the community property to the "innocent" spouse.
Is there legal separation in Texas?
No. There is no "legal separation" in Texas. Instead, when you file for divorce, the court can give you some temporary orders that try to keep things stable while the divorce is pending. The temporary orders can cover child support, visitation, custody, who lives where, who drives what car, and things like that.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Texas?
You have to wait 60 days from the day you file for divorce for the court to give you a divorce. It could take longer, if one of the people wants to fight about something (like property or custody).
What does a divorce do?
A divorce does five things:
- It dissolves your marriage.
- It divides your community property (and debt).
- It determines child custody.
- It determines child visitation.
- It determines child support.
A divorce can also change your name (back to your maiden name). It can sometimes order alimony (alimony is called "maintenance" in Texas). It an also enter temporary or permanent orders to the husband and wife about not bothering each other anymore.
Can I get alimony?
Alimony in Texas is called "maintenance," and it is very hard to get. There are two ways to get alimony in Texas. The first way is that you have to have been married for at least ten years, and the spouse asking for alimony is not able to support himself or herself. The second way is that one of the spouses was convicted of domestic violence within two years of when the divorce was filed. Either way, alimony is usually only good for three years. And, the Court will consider how much money both people have.
What happens to the property that we own?
In the divorce case the Court divides the property that you got during the marriage, unless it is the separate property of one spouse. Separate property is anything you owned before the marriage and property you got during the marriage by gift to you alone or by inheritance. Property that the court can divide in the divorce includes land, buildings, vehicles, bank accounts, pension accounts, furniture, personal belongings and debts (like credit card debts).
The judge (or jury) decides how to divide the property fairly. The court looks at what each person gave to the marriage, and if anyone is at "fault" in the breakup of the marriage. The court looks at the needs of each person.
Can I get part of my spouse's military retirement or civilian pension?
Sometimes. Tell your lawyer about any military or civilian pension or any other benefits your spouse may be entitled to. Do this before the divorce. It is too late after the court signs the divorce decree.
Can I get continued health insurance coverage for myself and my children after my divorce?
Some laws let you continue receiving health insurance coverage (COBRA). You must give the insurance company certain notices. The premium payments must be made. You can ask the court to order your spouse to pay these. Tell your lawyer you need insurance coverage from the other spouse. If the insurance coverage is cut off, you may not be able to get it back.
Can the court order a change of name?
As a part of the final divorce order, the Court can restore a party's prior name. In addition, errors that may exist on a child's birth record can also be corrected in the divorce proceeding.
What can I do if my spouse is hurting or abusing me?
Texas has laws that protect victims of family violence whether they are getting a divorce from their abusive partner or not. If you have already filed for divorce, the court can make emergency orders to protect you and the children. If you have not started the divorce process, you can apply for a "protective order" if you fear that you or your children are in danger. The local women's shelter, county attorney office, district attorney office, and/or Legal Aid office can assist you in obtaining a protective order. To locate the shelter nearest you and to obtain information regarding the various services they offer, please call the national hotline for domestic violence at 1-(800)-799-SAFE (7233).