Responding to a Summons & Complaint Divorce in Texas

By Beverly Bird

A complaint for divorce is called a petition in Texas, while a summons is called a citation. The state's rules for serving and responding to these papers are similar to those in other jurisdictions.

Service of Petition

After your spouse files her petition for divorce, she must make sure you receive a copy. She can ask the county sheriff or constable to deliver the papers to you, or use a private process server approved by the court. If your divorce is amicable, she can give you the papers herself and you can waive official service. The petition tells you what she's requesting as part of the divorce, while the citation explains when and how you should respond.

Time to Respond

Texas gives you 20 days to respond to your spouse's petition, but you usually have a little more time than this -- up until 10:00 a.m. on the first Monday after the 20th day. If the 20th day is a Tuesday, you actually have six more days, until the following Monday morning, to file. You can submit a simple document called an answer, letting the court know that you want to be involved in the proceedings. You can also file a counter-petition, telling the court what you want the judge to award you. If you do nothing, your spouse can ask for a divorce by default -- and in this case, the court will generally give her everything she requested in her petition.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What If Only One Person Wants a Divorce?

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How to Serve Divorce Papers in Texas

Often, the easiest part of getting a divorce is filing your petition with the court. Your next step after the court filing is to inform your spouse that you’ve filed the initial papers in the proceedings. This is known as “effectuating service,” and involves ensuring that your spouse has a copy of your divorce petition. Texas law allows you to accomplish this in a variety of ways.

How Soon Can I Get a Divorce After a Spouse is Served in Texas?

As in most states, how quickly you can get a Texas divorce depends on how complicated your divorce is, not how much time passes after you serve your spouse with the necessary divorce paperwork. Texas imposes a waiting period, but if you and your spouse have no property or children, or if you agree on every aspect of how you're going to end your marriage, you could be divorced a day after the waiting period ends. If you can't reach an agreement, your divorce will take much longer.

Can Divorce Papers Be Served to a Post Office Box?

You can't get a divorce until the court is sure that your spouse is aware of the proceedings. Therefore, you must serve her with a copy of your petition. The rules for how you can do this vary somewhat from state to state. Many jurisdictions allow you to mail your spouse a copy of your divorce papers. If you are serving her by mail, using a post office box usually isn't prohibited if this is how she regularly gets her mail delivered, as long as you can prove that she actually received the divorce paperwork.

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