Instructions and Forms for an Agreed Divorce with Children

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

These instructions explain the basic steps in an agreed divorce with children. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step.  

Use these instructions if:

A packet that combines both the instructions and the forms can be found at the website of the Harris County Law Library: Combined Forms Packets.

Checklist Steps

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 six 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 six months.

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

Read Filing a Divorce with Children for more information.

Fill out this starting form: Original Petition for Divorce (Set B) (called the Petition for short).

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.

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)

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

Find out if your county has standing orders. If it does, you must attach a copy of the standing orders to your petition. 

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 beforehand to learn your case's filing fee.
  • 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.
  • 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.

If your child has ever received TANF or Medicaid, you must send a file-stamped copy of your Petition to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) Child Support Division (and be able to prove that you did so). 

There are two ways to send the petition to the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division.

  1. By email. You can scan a file-stamped copy of your Petition and email it. Find the email address for the OAG child support office in the county where your case is filed here: Email Addresses for Child Support Offices. Write the cause number and the county where you filed your case in the subject line of the email. Print a copy of your email. This is your proof. Bring it with you when you go to court to finish your case.

  2. By certified mail, return receipt requested. Or, you can mail a copy of your Petition by certified mail, return receipt requested. The post office has the forms for certified mail, return receipt requested. 

    Find the mailing address for the OAG child support office in the county where your case is filed here: Mailing Addresses for Child Support Offices

    The post office will give you a receipt when you mail the Petition. The OAG will sign the return receipt (often called the “green card”) and mail it back to you. This is your proof. Bring the receipt and the return receipt (green card) with you when you go to court to finish your case. 

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 with Children in the checklist below this checklist. 

Ask your spouse to fill out and sign the Waiver of Service Only form, or the Respondent’s Original Answer form. Your spouse can fill out and sign either form. 

They should return the signed form to you or turn it in at the clerk’s office. If your spouse returns the signed form to you, make a copy and file the original at the clerk’s office. You can file it now or when you go to court to finish your case.

Note:

  • 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 them to sign it before a notary at least one day after you file 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.

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 Waiver of Service or Answer form. Read Step 6 for information about filling out the Final Decree of Divorce form.

CHANGE IN LAW! All family law cases filed after September 1, 2023, no longer need to exchange the previously mandatory Required Initial Disclosures. If your case was filed before September 1, 2023, after a party to a family law case (like a divorce) files an answer, both sides are obligated to exchange certain information and documents within 30 days. The form is here: Required Initial Disclosures in Divorces, Annulments, and Suits to Declare Marriage Void. See Rule 11 Agreements for information (and forms) about one way to waive required disclosures by agreement.

  1. Final Decree of Divorce:
    • Fill out the Final Decree of Divorce (Set B) form completely (except for the judge’s signature) before you go to court.
    • You and your spouse may want to fill out this form together.
    • Print your answers neatly in blue or black ink. Do not leave any blanks.
    • You are the “petitioner,” and your spouse is the “respondent.”
  2. Possession Order:
    • Print out and complete a possession order form. This form will not automatically print with the Final Decree of Divorce form.
    • If the standard possession schedule works for your family, fill out the Standard Possession Order form and attach it to the Final Decree of Divorce.
    • If the Standard Possession Order does not work for your family or would not be safe for your children, you can hire a lawyer to write a possession order that meets your family’s specific needs. Alternatively, you can use one of the possession orders included in this article: Child Visitation and Possession Orders.
  3. Income Withholding Order for Support:
  4. Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form:
  5. Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) form for retirement benefits:
    • If you are dividing retirement benefits (other than an IRA), you must complete a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) form.
    • 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.
    • Even if you use the employer or plan administrator’s form, you should have a lawyer review it to ensure you are not giving up important benefits.
    • 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.

Some counties require this document to be reviewed by an attorney, while others do not. You should speak with the district clerk's office in your county to understand the local requirements. Even if it's 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:

  1. Use our Legal Help Directory to search for a lawyer referral service, legal aid office, or self-help center in your area.
  2. Check our Legal Events and Clinics page for free legal clinics in your area.
  3. Use Ask a Question to chat online with a lawyer or law student.

Ask your spouse to review and sign your completed Final Decree of Divorce form, and return it to you.

Make sure the Final Decree of Divorce form (including the attached possession order) is completely filled out before your spouse signs it. You cannot make changes to the Final Decree of Divorce once it has been signed by your spouse unless they initial each change.

Keep the signed Final Decree of Divorce form until it is time to finish your case.

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.

  1. Contact the clerk’s office.
    • Call the clerk’s office to learn when and where the court hears uncontested cases.
    • If you sent a copy of your Petition to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), ask the clerk if the OAG filed anything in your case. If they did not, you can finish your divorce without further notice to the OAG. If they did, talk to a lawyer about what to do next. You can use Ask a Question to chat with a lawyer online.
  2. Preparing for Court.
    • Print and read through the sample testimony. You must read this testimony to the judge when you go to court to finish your divorce.
    • Ensure that 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.
  3. Tips for the Courtroom:
  4. Finishing the Case Without Going to the Courthouse
    • Some judges let you use an affidavit to satisfy the prove-up requirements in an agreed divorce.
    • If you’d like to see if the judge will accept an affidavit instead of short testimony, contact the court coordinator. Some judges may not accept prove-up affidavits, and some will only accept them for divorces without children.
    • If the judge will accept an affidavit, you can use this form: Affidavit for Prove-Up of Agreed Divorce With Children. This form must be sworn in front of a notary. Everything in the affidavit must be true and correct. You can be charged with a crime for lying to the court. See Texas Penal Code 37.
    • Virtual Appearances: If you want to appear in court by Zoom or another videoconferencing tool, read Virtual Court to learn how.

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

  1. File-stamped copy of your Original Petition for Divorce.
  2. Waiver of Service or Answer form filled out and signed by your spouse (and one copy).
  3. Final Decree of Divorce form completely filled out and signed by both you and your spouse (make sure a completed possession order is attached).
  4. Income Withholding Order for Support if child support will be ordered.
  5. Sample Testimony Divorce with Children (Set B).
  6. 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.
  7. The completed Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form (also known as the "Austin" form), printed on one sheet of paper (front and back).

When you get to the courthouse:

  1. 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 (a list of what has been filed in your case).
  2. 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.
  3. 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 for Divorce with Children 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.

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

  1. File (turn in) the Final Decree of Divorce and any other orders the judge signs. Your divorce is not final until you do so.

  2. 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.  

  3. If your name was changed, get at least 3 certified copies of your Final Decree of Divorce to take to the agencies listed in Step 13. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies. 

  4. If child support was ordered, ask the clerk how to set up a child support account.

  5. File the completed Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form (also known as the "Austin" form), printed on one sheet of paper (front and back).

  6. Complete and submit the Record of Support Order to the clerk's office to set up the child support account.

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:

  1. Child Support and Medical Support:
    • If you were ordered to pay child support and/or cash medical support, you can get additional information from the Texas Attorney General's Child Support Division website or by calling 800-252-8014.
    • If your ex-spouse was ordered to pay child support,  medical support, or both—and doesn’t pay—contact the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division for help enforcing your order.
  2. Name change: 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.
  3. Vehicle titles: 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.
  4. Real property: File deeds to transfer title to real property (house or land) at the property records office in the county where the property is located.
  5. Retirement accounts: 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. You won’t get your share of the retirement funds if this isn't done.
  6. Legal and Financial Updates: Revise your will, insurance policies, and all financial account beneficiary designations as needed.

Source URL: https://texaslawhelp.org/checklist/instructions-and-forms-for-an-agreed-divorce-with-children