How to File an Original Petition for Divorce in Texas

By Christine Funk, J.D.

How to File an Original Petition for Divorce in Texas

By Christine Funk, J.D.

In order to start divorce proceedings in Texas, one of the parties must file an Original Petition for Divorce. This document details the beginning terms and conditions of the divorce, from child support and parenting time to health insurance. It also addresses such things as identifying personal property that is not marital community property, or property both spouses own together. Because Texas is a community property state, with rare exceptions, every single item acquired by either party during the marriage belongs to both parties of the marriage, even if the property is only in one person's name.

Hands signing a petition for divorce

If you want to file the petition on your own, follow these steps. However, if you want more assistance or to save time during this process, you may want to consult a divorce specialist.

1. Ensure you meet residency requirements.

In order to get a divorce in Texas, at least one of the parties must be a Texas resident. Either the petitioner (the person filing the petition) or their spouse must have lived in Texas for the past six months in most instances. There is an exception for married couples where one party is serving in the military. If a person is serving in the armed forces or other government service outside the State of Texas but Texas is the home state of the petitioner or the spouse for at least six months, they can file for divorce in Texas. Further, if the person is accompanying a spouse who is serving in the armed forces or other government service outside the State of Texas but Texas is the home state for either party for at least six months, they can file for divorce in Texas.

2. Obtain the necessary paperwork.

Each county in the State of Texas has a divorce packet that includes a form entitled Original Petition for Divorce. This form, and the other forms in the packet, provide a clear road map for how to proceed in a divorce. The packet includes a set of instructions for what to do if your divorce is agreed upon and another set of instructions if the divorce is contested.

3. Fill out the paperwork.

You must completely fill out the appropriate Original Petition for Divorce form, as there are different petitions for those with and those without children. You need to notify your spouse of the filing through legal service. If your divorce is uncontested, you do not need to serve your spouse and they can sign a Waiver of Service. If you do need to serve your spouse, you can request service by the sheriff, process server, or clerk, or you can indicate that you need your spouse served by publication. You should make two copies of your completed petition.

4. File the paperwork.

You must file the paperwork in the divorce packet with the court and pay the required filing fee, which is dictated by the county's fee schedule. You can file your petition online or in person. If you file in person, the clerk will write the case number and court number on both your original and the copies and return the copies to you. One copy is for your spouse.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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