Frequently Asked Questions

This post is first in a series of super simple FAQs related to Texas divorce topics…

How do you file for divorce in Texas?

A Texas divorce follows basically the same process whether you have attorneys or represent yourself, whether you have children or not, whether you have a lot of assets or little.

  1. Step One: jurisdiction. If you have lived in Texas for more than 6 months, you can file for divorce in Texas.
  2. Step Two: venue. Determine what county either you/your spouse or your children live in for at least 90 days. If not the same for all, the county the children live in will control.
  3. Step Three: petition. Prepare a petition for divorce. This is the document that opens the court’s file and begins the process. The petition will tell the court what your position is regarding the issues in the divorce. This may include whether a no-fault divorce or fault-based divorce is alleged, who should have conservatorship of the children, and whether any separate property exists that should be confirmed to a spouse. The petition must remain on file at least 60 days before finalizing the divorce – called the “cooling off” period. A contested divorce may last much longer than 60 days.
  4. Step four: service. Notify your spouse of the filing of the petition. If it is an agreed divorce, then the spouse can sign a waiver of service. Otherwise, the spouse must be formally served with citation of the divorce. The clerk of the court will issue the citation and it should be served personally upon the opposing spouse by a constable or private process server.
  5. Step five: temporary orders. If the divorce is not agreed, temporary orders may be necessary to set out some operating rules while the divorce works through the process. This could include seeking temporary orders on conservatorship or custody of the children, temporary child support, temporary spousal support, determination of who will live in the marital residence, how the marital bills will be paid, and how the attorneys will be paid.
  6. Step six: discovery. Written discovery can be sent to the other spouse if information is needed prior to resolving the issues. This may include standard questions in a request for disclosure, written questions in interrogatories, request for document production, oral questioning in a deposition, or request documents or information from third parties. In most divorces, agreed or contested, the parties will exchange sworn inventories listing that spouse’s opinion about the nature, character, and value of the marital assets and debts.
  7. Step seven: settlement negotiations. The parties should make a good faith effort to settle their case prior to a contested trial. Settlement negotiations can be attempted either between the parties or through the attorneys. Some find success in holding a settlement conference with the parties and attorneys all in one room together. If that is not successful, the parties should attempt mediation. Mediation is required by most courts prior to having a final contested trial. Mediation is a process where the parties and attorneys meet with a neutral third party to try to reach a settlement. If settlement is reached, the parties will sign a mediated settlement agreement, which is irrevocable once signed.
  8. Step eight: final trial. Finally, if the parties cannot settle their differences between themselves then the case will be submitted to a judge for decision on the contested issues after presentation of evidence and trial.
  9. Step nine: divorce decree. The divorce is concluded with the entry of a final divorce decree, signed by the judge, which addresses all of the issues regarding the marriage, children, and property division.
  10. Step ten: closing documents. Certain closing documents may be necessary to complete the divorce process. The most common extra document is a child support withholding order so the child support amount is automatically withheld from the obligor’s paycheck. Other closing documents may be necessary to divide real property, retirement accounts, or cars, especially when such items are held jointly.
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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 30+ years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 30+ years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW for multiple years. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.