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Instructions & Forms for an Agreed Divorce (When there is Already a Final Court Order for Custody and Support of Your Children)

These instructions explain the basic steps in an agreed divorce when there is already a final court order for custody and support of your children in place and you do not want to change that order. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step.  Click on the step to expand it with more information.

Use these instructions if:

  • you and your spouse agree about all the issues and will both sign the necessary court forms, and
  • there is a final court order for custody and support of your children in place, and
  • you do not want to change that order.

Do not use these instructions if the order for custody and support of your children:

  • does not include all the children you and your spouse have together, or
  • is a temporary order, or
  • is a family violence protective order, or
  • you want to change the order.

Have you read the Frequently Asked Questions and related Articles?

These instructions are part of this TexasLawHelp.org Toolkit: I need a divorce. We have minor children. A final custody and support order is already in place. Before getting started, it’s important to read the Frequently Asked Questions and Articles included in the Toolkit.

Do you need help finding the right instructions? Use our Ask a Question tool to chat with a lawyer or law student online.

WARNING! These instructions provide general information and are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

You can print these instructions to use as a checklist. 

To print out both instructions and forms, click here.

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Step 1: Determine where to file your divorce.

It’s important to file for divorce in the correct county. If you file in the wrong county, your case will be dismissed.

You can file for divorce in the county where you live or in the county where your spouse lives as long as you or your spouse meets these residency requirements:

  • You can file for divorce in the county where you live as long as:
    • you have lived in that county for at least the last 90 days - and -
    • you have lived in Texas for at least the last 6 months.
  • Or, you can file for divorce in the county where your spouse lives as long as:
    • your spouse has lived in that county for at least the last 90 days - and -
    • your spouse has lived in Texas for at least the last 6 months.

If neither you nor your spouse meet the residency requirements, talk with a lawyer.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs: Filing a Divorce with Children with Final Court Order), for additional information.

Step 2: Fill out the starting forms.

Fill out this starting form:

You will file (turn in) the Petition at the courthouse to start your divorce case. The Petition tells the judge and your spouse that you want a divorce and states what you want the judge to order in the Final Decree of Divorce. The Frequently Asked Questions and related Articles included with these instructions will help you understand your options.

When you fill out the Petition:

  • Print your answers neatly in blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.
  • You are the “petitioner” and your spouse is the “respondent.”
  • Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need help.

Note: The Petition asks for your address. Your spouse will get a copy of the Petition. If you are concerned about your spouse knowing your address, call the Family Violence Legal Line at 800-374-4673 for free advice.

Do you have a copy of the order for custody and support of your children? You will need a file-stamped copy of the final court order for custody and support of your children. If you already have a copy, make sure it includes the judge’s signature. If you need a copy, get it from the district clerk’s office in the county where the order was made.

Are you filing your divorce in the county where the order for custody and support of your children was made? If yes, use the same cause number and court number for your divorce. Find the cause number and court number for the order regarding your children at the top of the first page of the order. Write the same cause number and court number at the top of the first page of your Petition. 

Note: If you are filing your divorce in a different county, the clerk will give you a new cause number and court number.

Fill out these additional starting forms if required for your case:

Make two copies of these completed starting forms:

  • Original Petition for Divorce
  • Exhibit: Out-of-State Party Declaration (only if you or your spouse lives outside of Texas)
  • Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Courts (only if you are asking the court to waive court costs)
Step 3: File (turn in) your starting forms.

File (turn-in) your completed Petition and other starting forms with the court.

  • To file your forms online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions.
  • To file your divorce forms in person, take your Original Petition for Divorce and additional starting forms (and copies) to the district clerk’s office in the county you have determined is the correct county to file your divorce.    

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your Petition and other starting forms (and copies).
  • Pay the filing fee (or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the fee). You can call the clerk’s office ahead of time to learn the filing fee for your case.
  • Ask the clerk if there is a local standing order that you need to follow or attach to any of your documents.
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for your divorce.
  • If you are filing for divorce in the county where the order for custody and support of your children was made, ask the clerk to file you divorce case in the same court and under the same cause number. If you are filing for divorce in a different county, the clerk will write your “Cause Number” and “Court Number” at the top of the first page of your Petition. (Write these numbers at the top of any document you file in your divorce case.)
  • The clerk will “file stamp” your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and give you back your copies. One copy is for you and one copy is for your spouse.
Step 4: Ask your spouse to sign an Answer or Waiver of Service form.

Give your spouse:

WARNING! Do not hand-deliver any papers to your spouse if there has been violence during your relationship, especially if a judge has signed a Protective Order ordering you or your spouse to stay away from the other. You can have your spouse served instead. If you decide to have your spouse served, use these instructions instead: Instructions & Forms for a Default Divorce (When There is Already a Final Court Order for Custody and Support of Your Children)

Ask your spouse to:

  • fill out and sign the Respondent’s Original Answer form - OR - the Waiver of Service Only form.

Your spouse can fill out and sign either form. 

The Waiver of Service Only form must be signed in front of a notary. If your spouse plans to sign the Waiver of Service Only form, tell your spouse to sign it in front of a notary at least one day after you filed the Petition. Otherwise your spouse will have to redo it.

The Respondent’s Original Answer form does not have to be signed in front of a notary.

  • return the signed form to you.

TIP: If your divorce is agreed, your spouse must also sign a completed Final Decree of Divorce form. It may save you time to fill out the Final Decree of Divorce form now and send it to your spouse with the Answer or Waiver of Service form. Read Step 5 for information about filling out the Final Decree of Divorce.

Step 5: Fill out the Final Decree of Divorce and other ending forms.

Fill out the following Final Decree of Divorce form:

You will ask the judge to sign the Final Decree of Divorce form when it’s time to finish your divorce. When signed by the judge, the Final Decree of Divorce ends your marriage and makes orders about your property and debt. It may include other orders depending on your case.

The Final Decree of Divorce form must be completely filled out (except for the judge’s signature) before you go to court. You and your spouse may want to fill out the Final Decree of Divorce form together.

When you fill out the Final Decree of Divorce:

  • Print your answers neatly in blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.
  • You are the petitioner and your spouse is the respondent.
  • Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need help.

Note: You MUST attach a file-stamped copy of the order for custody and support of your children to the Final Decree of Divorce. Make sure your copy of the order includes the judge’s signature. If you need a new copy of the order, get it from the district clerk’s office in the county where the order was made.

Note about retirement benefits: If you are dividing retirement benefits (other than an IRA), you must also complete a form called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). TexasLawHelp.org does not provide QDRO forms. You may contact the employer or retirement plan administrator to see if they have a sample QDRO form. If not, you should hire a lawyer to draft the QDRO form. If you use the employer or plan administrator’s form, you should still have a lawyer review it to make sure you are not giving up important benefits. You should have the QDRO prepared before you go to court, so the judge can sign it when you finish your divorce. Learn more here: Dividing Retirement Benefits Upon Divorce.

Also complete the Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form (also known as the "Austin" form), which must be printed on one page (front and back).

Step 6: Have your Final Decree of Divorce form reviewed (if possible).

Although not required, it’s a good idea to have a family law lawyer review your completed Final Decree of Divorce form. Family law lawyers specialize in cases involving families, such as divorce cases.

You can hire a family law lawyer just to review your forms. This is called “limited scope representation.” You may also be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

Step 7: Ask your spouse to sign the Final Decree of Divorce form.

Ask your spouse to:

  • review and sign your completed Final Decree of Divorce form, and
  • return the signed Final Decree of Divorce form to you.

Note: Make sure the Final Decree of Divorce form is completely filled out before your spouse signs it. You CANNOT make changes to the Decree once it has been signed by your spouse, unless your spouse initials each change.

You will also:

  • sign the Final Decree of Divorce form, and
  • keep the signed Final Decree of Divorce form until it is time to finish your case.

Note: If your spouse filed an answer or waiver of service only form but will not sign the Final Decree of Divorce form, your divorce is contested. To finish a contested divorce, you must set a contested final hearing. You must give your spouse at least 45 days’ notice of the final hearing. Read this article to learn more: How to Set a Contested Final Hearing (Family Law). It’s always best to have a lawyer if your case is contested.

Step 8: Wait the 60-day waiting period.

In almost all cases, you must wait at least 60 days before you can finish your divorce.

When counting the 60 days, find the day you filed your Original Petition for Divorce on a calendar, and then count out 60 more days (including weekends and holidays). If the 60th day falls on a weekend or holiday, go to the next business day. Note: When counting the 60 day waiting period, don’t count the day you filed your Original Petition for Divorce. Day 1 is the next day.

There are only two exceptions to the 60-day waiting period.

  1. If your spouse has been convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a crime involving family violence against you or a member of your household, the 60-day waiting period is waived.
  2. If you have an active protective order or an active magistrate’s order for emergency protection against your spouse because of family violence during your marriage, the 60-day waiting period is waived.

Note: You can always wait longer than 60 days, but your divorce cannot be finished in fewer than 60 days unless one of these exceptions applies.

Step 9: Get ready for court.

Call the clerk’s office to learn when and where the court hears uncontested cases.

Print and read through the sample testimony (found below). You must read this testimony to the judge when you go to court to finish your divorce. Make sure everything in the sample testimony is true for you. If not, talk to a lawyer. Remember, everything you say in court must be true and correct. You can be charged with a crime for lying in court.

Read the article TIPS for the Courtroom for more information about going to Court.

Step 10: Go to court to finish your divorce.

Bring these papers with you to the courthouse on the day you plan to finish your case:

  • File-stamped copy of your Original Petition for Divorce; 
  • Waiver of Service or Answer form filled out and signed by your spouse (and 1 copy);
  • Final Decree of Divorce form completely filled out and signed by both you and your spouse with a file-stamped copy of the final order for custody and support of your children attached; 
  • Sample Testimony; 
  • Your completed Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form (also known as the "Austin" form), which must be printed on one sheet of paper (front and back); and
  • Any additional documents needed for your specific case, such as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) signed by both you and your spouse if you are dividing a retirement account.

When you get to the courthouse, go to the clerk’s office.

  • File the Respondent’s Original Answer or Waiver of Service Only form that was filled out and signed by your spouse. Ask the clerk to file stamp your copy. Bring your file-stamped copy with you to court.
  • Ask if you need the court file or docket sheet (list of what has been filed in your case).

When you get to the courtroom tell the clerk you are there and give the clerk your paperwork. Sit down until the judge calls your case.

When the judge calls your case, walk to the front of the courtroom and stand in front of the judge’s bench. The judge will have you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. The judge may ask you questions or may ask you to read your testimony. Have your sample testimony ready. The judge will listen to what you say and review your papers. If everything is in order the judge will sign your Final Decree of Divorce.

Step 11: File (turn in) the signed Final Decree of Divorce.

After the judge signs your Final Decree of Divorce, go back to the clerk’s office.

  • File (turn in) the Final Decree of Divorce and any other orders signed by the judge. Your divorce is NOT final until you do so.
  • File your completed Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form (also known as the "Austin" form), which must be printed on one sheet of paper (front and back).
  • Get a certified copy of your Final Decree of Divorce and any other orders signed by the judge from the clerk while you are there. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies.  
Step 12: After your divorce is finished.

Send a file-stamped copy of your Final Decree of Divorce and any other orders signed by the judge to your spouse.

Follow these additional steps if they apply:

  • If your name was changed, take a certified copy of your Final Decree of Divorce to the following agencies:
    • Your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office to change your social security card.
    • Your local Department of Public Safety (DPS) office to change your driver’s license or state identification card.
    • Your County Voter Registrar to change your voter registration card. (For more information, contact the Texas Secretary of State.)
    • Contact the U.S. State Department to change your name on your passport.
  • Transfer car titles. If a vehicle (not already in your name alone) is awarded to you, give a certified copy of the Final Decree of Divorce to your county tax office and apply for title. The vehicle identification number (VIN) must be listed in your Final Decree of Divorce.
  • File deeds to transfer title to real property (house or land) at the property records office in the county where the property is located.
  • If the judge signed a QDRO dividing a retirement account, send a certified copy of the QDRO to the administrator of the retirement plan by certified mail return receipt requested. If this isn’t done, you won’t get your share of the retirement funds.
  • Revise your will, insurance policies and all financial account beneficiary designations as needed.