Divorce Petition for Texas

by Beverly Bird

The state of Texas offers two types of petitions for use in divorce proceedings -- one for use if you have children and the other for use if you do not. But the lines between the two are not quite that clearly drawn. To further complicate matters, Texas offers several additional court filing and process of service options when you seek a divorce in the state.

Petitions

The Texas "Original Petition for Divorce -- No Children" is not solely for use by childless couples. You can also use this petition if you already have a support and custody order in place with the court. You must still list your children’s full names and dates of birth in Paragraph 6, but check the box indicating that you have an existing order and that you’re not asking the court to change it when granting your divorce. If you do want to change an existing order relating to child support and/or custody, or if you don’t have one yet, use the "Original Petition for Divorce" for couples with children and complete the information asked for in Paragraph 4.

Filing

In Texas, the district court has jurisdiction over divorce proceedings. You can file your petition either in the county where you reside or in the county where your spouse lives, provided you or he have lived in Texas for at least six months and that county for at least three months. Texas requires that you give the relevant district clerk an original petition and two copies. The clerk will assign your case a number, stamp all copies as having been received and return one copy to you to serve on your spouse. Filing fees are not the same in every county, so call ahead to find out what they are in the jurisdiction where you’re filing. Filing will also start the clock on the mandatory sixty-day waiting period before a divorce is final.

Service of Process

Texas allows you to serve your spouse with your divorce petition in one of several ways. The district clerk will take care of it for you if you provide an address where your spouse is most likely to be found during business hours. For a fee, the clerk will forward a copy of your petition to the sheriff or constable in that county, who will then deliver it to your spouse. You can also hire a private process server if you’re not sure where your spouse is during the day, but you have an idea where the server can locate him at night or on weekends. If you’re on reasonably amicable terms with your spouse, you can give him the petition yourself and have him sign a waiver of official service form. If all else fails, you can file a motion with the court, asking for permission to serve your spouse by placing a notice in the newspaper, alerting him that you’ve filed a divorce petition.

Orders

Sometimes either party may find it necessary to have the court rule on issues after the petition is filed but before the divorce is final. These temporary orders are effective while the divorce is pending and can serve many functions like determining conservatorship, time and support with children, living arrangements, and spousal support. They may also address the possession and use of property. You will have to request a hearing for a temporary order. Some Texas counties automatically issue a standing order when a divorce petition is filed that is similar to a Temporary Restraining Order and allow law enforcement to interfere if the order is violated.