Skillern Firm

(713) 229-8855

Skillern Firm
Home $ Can I File for Divorce in Texas If My Spouse Is in Jail?

Can I File for Divorce in Texas If My Spouse Is in Jail?

Two people holding hands.

Yes, you can file for divorce in Texas even if your spouse is currently serving time in jail. The process may seem daunting at first, but is entirely manageable with the right information and resources. It involves more than just signing papers; it requires understanding Texas law, meeting specific notice requirements, and communicating with the incarcerated individual. This process can be intricate and may feel overwhelming, but it is important to know that you’re not alone. Many have walked this path before and, with the proper guidance, you can successfully start a new chapter in your life apart from your incarcerated spouse.

Skillern Firm is here to offer the support and experience you need for the legal intricacies of divorcing an imprisoned spouse in Texas. Our experienced team understands the unique challenges that come with such situations and is dedicated to guiding you through every step of the process. We provide comprehensive assistance, ensuring you have the right information and resources to make informed decisions. If you’re in Houston, Katy, or Sugar Land, Texas, and ready to file for divorce or are currently going through the process, call us at 713-229-8855. Let Skillern Firm be your ally in this journey toward a new chapter in your life.

Divorcing an Incarcerated Spouse in Texas: Is It Possible?

It is indeed possible to divorce an incarcerated spouse in Texas, though it comes with its own set of unique challenges. The initial step involves filing a divorce petition, which commences the legal divorce process. Specific procedures and requirements set by Texas law govern the divorce in Texas, highlighting the need for a thorough understanding of these mandates.

An incarcerated spouse has fundamental legal entitlements, such as the right to be notified of the divorce proceedings against them and the right to contest the divorce terms. Common grounds for divorce include insupportability, which means the marriage has become insupportable due to discord or conflict of personalities, and in some cases, the incarceration itself. However, this process is rife with potential procedural challenges such as communication limitations, increased legal expenses, and obstacles in the incarcerated spouse’s participation (or lack thereof) in court proceedings.

Legal Requirements

To file a divorce petition in Texas, one must:

  1. File the petition to the district court in the county where either party has resided for the preceding 90 days, provided that they have also maintained residency in Texas for a minimum of 6 months.
  2. Ensure the spouse is notified by serving them with the citation of your petition.
  3. Attend a hearing.
  4. Receive the final decree.

Serving divorce papers to an incarcerated spouse in Texas can be achieved by having a process server hand-deliver the citation to their correctional facility. However, service can be effected more efficiently by having them sign a waiver of service or mailing them an affidavit stating their agreement to waive formal service. Consulting an experienced family law attorney, like those at Skillern Firm, can ensure the proper preparation of all required documents and provide guidance throughout the divorce process.

Communication Challenges

One must be aware of the primary communication obstacles when seeking a divorce from an incarcerated spouse in Texas. These include restricted access due to prison schedules and stringent regulations governing inmate contact with the outside world. If the incarcerated spouse fails to respond to the divorce petition within the specified time frame, the court may grant a default judgment in favor of the petitioner.

Technology such as telephone or video conference can be employed to enable the involvement of incarcerated spouses in divorce proceedings, although the actual possibility and practicality are contingent upon the infrastructure and policies of the correctional facility. To enhance communication during a divorce, parties are advised to make use of written correspondence and the approved communication channels provided by the correctional facility, such as email or monitored phone calls for important discussions.

Serving Divorce Papers to an Incarcerated Spouse

An understanding of the specific procedures is required when serving divorce papers to an incarcerated spouse in Texas. There are two methods for serving divorce papers: personal delivery by a process server or a signed waiver of service by the incarcerated individual. Although the process of ensuring proper service can be challenging, it is a crucial step in the divorce process.

Within the jail or prison environment, process servers or law enforcement officials ensure that the incarcerated spouse receives the divorce filings properly and promptly. Alternatively, a waiver of service is a legal document in which the incarcerated spouse consents to forgo the formal service of the divorce papers, simplifying the process by eliminating the need for personal delivery by a process server.

Personal Delivery

The design of personal delivery is such that it ensures the incarcerated spouse receives notice of the divorce proceedings through direct receipt of the documents. This is achieved by:

  1. A process server or law enforcement officer retrieving the filings from the courthouse
  2. Personally delivering them to the incarcerated spouse
  3. Filing the process server’s affidavit of service with the court.

Upon delivery of the divorce papers to the prison, the process server follows the Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 106, which requires an attempt to deliver in person or by certified mail. However, difficulties in personal delivery to an incarcerated spouse may arise due to limited communication and contact, potentially leading to prolonged divorce proceedings.

Waiver of Service

A waiver of service is a formal legal document signifying the incarcerated spouse’s consent to forgo the traditional service process and engage in divorce proceedings. This streamlines the divorce process, especially if the incarcerated spouse is cooperative and eager to engage in the proceedings.

In Texas, the process for submitting a waiver of service after filing for divorce is as follows:

  1. Observe the waiting period of at least one day after filing the Original Petition for Divorce.
  2. Have the incarcerated spouse (respondent) sign the waiver document.
  3. Get the waiver document notarized.
  4. File the notarized waiver document with the court.

Following the decision to file for divorce, and after filing the waiver of service, the incarcerated spouse must submit an answer to the divorce petition, expressing their position regarding the divorce proceedings.

Contested Divorce with an Incarcerated Spouse

In a contested divorce, the non-incarcerated spouse must initiate the process by filing a divorce petition and ensuring that the incarcerated spouse is served with the papers within the correctional facility. The incarcerated spouse is then given a deadline to file an answer, which outlines their stance on the divorce proceedings.

The key steps in a contested divorce include:

  1. The filing of a divorce petition by the non-incarcerated spouse.
  2. Serving the divorce papers to the incarcerated spouse by a process server within the correctional facility.
  3. Awaiting the response from the incarcerated spouse, who must file an answer by a given deadline.
  4. If the incarcerated spouse contests the divorce, both parties may need to engage in discovery, where they exchange information relevant to the case.
  5. Pre-trial motions and hearings may take place to set the groundwork for the trial.
  6. The case proceeds to trial, where a Judge will make the final decisions on matters such as property division, child custody, and support.

Throughout this process, the incarcerated spouse has the right to participate in the proceedings, usually via telephone or video conference, depending on the facility’s capabilities and policies and the court’s local rules. A contested divorce is complicated when one spouse is in prison necessitating a thorough understanding of both family law and the specific challenges that arise from the incarceration.

Child Custody Considerations

In Texas, the court considers several factors when determining custody arrangements, including:

  • The best interests and well-being of the child
  • The previous level of involvement each parent had in the child’s life
  • The ability of the parents to co-parent effectively
  • The child’s own needs and expressed wishes, if they are of a suitable age to voice them

Even when one parent is incarcerated, the court may grant visitation rights if deemed beneficial for the child. This underscores the legal system’s efforts to maintain the parent-child relationship whenever it is for the child’s well-being to do so.

Division of Property in a Texas Divorce Involving Incarceration

Dividing property in a Texas divorce can be complicated, and it becomes even more so when one spouse is incarcerated. Texas is a community property state, meaning that most property acquired during the marriage is owned jointly by both spouses and should be divided fairly upon divorce. However, when dealing with the division of property involving an incarcerated spouse, several additional considerations come into play.

Understanding Community vs. Separate Property

First, it’s important to distinguish between community property and separate property. Community property includes most of the assets and debts a couple has accumulated during their marriage. Separate property refers to assets or debts owned by one spouse before the marriage or acquired by one spouse through gift or inheritance during the marriage. Texas family law presumes all property that either spouse owns at the time of divorce to be community property, and a spouse would have to achieve a high level of proof to confirm certain property as their separate property. 

Factors Affecting Property Division

When one spouse is incarcerated, the court may consider the following factors in dividing property:

  • The length of the incarceration and its impact on the couple’s finances.
  • The earning capacity of each spouse, including any reduction in earning capacity as a result of the incarceration.
  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of property, as well as the preservation or improvement of both community and separate property.
  • Any expenses incurred by the non-incarcerated spouse related to the criminal proceedings or incarceration of the other spouse.
  • The fault in the breakup of the marriage, including any criminal misconduct leading to incarceration.

Community Property Considerations

The court aims to divide community property in a manner that is just and right, but this does not always mean equal. The court will strive to make a fair division of the community property, which could result in the non-incarcerated spouse receiving a larger portion of the assets, especially if they have been solely responsible for the couple’s finances due to the other spouse’s incarceration.

Retirement and Pension Plans

Retirement and pension plans are also subject to division during a divorce. The court will consider the contributions made to these plans during the marriage and will divide them according to the principles of community property.

Debt Responsibility

Debts are treated similar to assets. If debts were accumulated during the marriage, both spouses might be responsible for paying them off. However, if the non-incarcerated spouse can prove that they were unaware of certain debts or that those debts were the result of the other spouse’s criminal activity, the court may assign the responsibility for those debts to the incarcerated spouse.

Seeking Legal Advice

Given the difficulty of property division in a divorce involving an incarcerated spouse, it is advisable to seek the counsel of an experienced divorce attorney from Skillern Firm. We can provide guidance on your rights and help ensure that the division of property is fair and equitable, taking into account the unique circumstances of your case.

The Role of Skillern Firm in Divorcing an Incarcerated Spouse

In divorces involving an incarcerated spouse, Skillern Firm plays a crucial role by offering comprehensive legal representation and negotiation and mediation services. With our focus on Texas family law, we ensure the protection of your rights and the smooth progression of the divorce process, explaining the intricacies of the legal system and prison regulations.

Our firm provides a wealth of experience in negotiation and mediation to assist clients in achieving amicable and civil resolutions in their divorce proceedings. We possess the necessary experience to effectively manage complex divorce cases, encompassing significant assets, closely held businesses, and child custody issues, with a focus on assisting clients in achieving optimal resolutions.

Legal Representation

Our experienced attorneys at Skillern Firm provide a range of services to guide clients through the divorce process, safeguarding their interests. Our services include:

  • Aid in filing procedures
  • Prepare for and attend court hearings
  • Negotiate settlements
  • Prepare essential paperwork such as the Agreed Divorce Decree

Our experienced divorce attorney leverages their extensive experience in representing clients in divorce cases in Harris County, Texas, and all counties in the Houston area, effectively safeguarding the goals and wishes of our clients.

We advocate for our clients in child custody battles, protect the rights of fathers, and pursue enforcement of Texas divorce decrees. Our legal representation ensures that your interests are adequately represented, regardless of the complexity of your case.

Negotiation and Mediation Services

To assist clients in achieving amicable and civil resolutions in their divorce cases involving an incarcerated spouse, we offer negotiation, mediation, and legal counseling services. Our strategies assist spouses in handling important issues and reaching a mutually agreeable resolution during a divorce.

As skilled mediators, our attorneys:

  • Establish a neutral and confidential environment to facilitate constructive dialogue between the divorcing parties
  • Aim to reach mutual agreement on crucial matters such as child custody, visitation rights, and property division
  • Strive to ensure that the divorce process is as smooth and amicable as possible.

In mediation, our attorneys exclusively represent one party, ensuring effective advocacy. Sessions involve separate rooms for each party, with the mediator as the primary communicator, fostering focused discussions for a mutually agreeable resolution.

Contact Us

If you are considering divorcing an incarcerated spouse in Texas and need professional guidance, Skillern Firm is here to support you. We understand the hardships and emotional challenges that accompany such proceedings. Our dedicated team of experienced family law attorneys with 160 years of combined experience will work tirelessly to ensure your rights are protected and the process is as seamless as possible. Don’t face this journey alone; contact us today at 713-229-8855 for a comprehensive consultation. Let us help you start the next chapter of your life with confidence and peace of mind.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I divorce my husband if he’s in jail?

Yes, you can still file for divorce even if your spouse is in jail or prison. You will need to serve your spouse with all the court papers as you would if they were not incarcerated.

What to do if your husband is in jail?

It’s important to prioritize self-care and maintain a support system while also being open with your children. Writing letters and visiting the incarcerated spouse can also be beneficial. Remember to take care of yourself and seek support from friends and professionals.

Can I get a divorce without my spouse knowing in Texas?

In Texas, you can proceed with a divorce without your spouse’s direct involvement by meeting specific legal requirements, such as providing notice through personal service or alternative methods like publication or posting. This allows the divorce process to move forward even if your spouse does not respond or otherwise participate in the divorce proceedings.

What is the divorce rate for inmates?

The divorce rate for inmates is significantly high, with research showing an average increase of 32 percent in the odds of divorce for each year of incarceration. For couples with one spouse imprisoned for one year or more, the divorce rate is as high as 80 percent for men and close to 100 percent for women.

How does incarceration impact the division of property in a Texas divorce?

In Texas, the division of property during a divorce is typically based on community property laws, which means that all assets acquired during the marriage are presumed to be owned equally by both spouses. However, incarceration can impact the division of property. The court may take into account the length of the incarceration, the contribution of the incarcerated spouse to the marriage, and any income or assets acquired by the non-incarcerated spouse during the period of incarceration. It’s essential to consult with a skilled divorce attorney to understand how these factors may affect your specific situation.