How Do I File For Divorce in Houston?
Filing for divorce is often one of the most stressful and emotional experiences in a person’s life. It can create financial uncertainty and conflict, and most parents worry about its effect on their children.
Having an experienced family law attorney by your side to keep you informed, guide you through the process, and ensure that your rights and interests are protected can be invaluable to you.
At Skillern Firm, we are dedicated to family law in the Greater Houston Area; we have experience navigating even the most complex family law issues, including contested divorce and divorces involving high assets, contested spousal support, or high-conflict disputes.
We prioritize mediation whenever possible throughout the divorce process; However, we are also skilled litigators, and if a court case is necessary to protect your rights, then we will be prepared to stand up for you in front of a Judge.
Where Do You File Divorce Papers in Greater Houston, Texas?
If you are a Houston resident, then you will file for divorce with the district county clerk’s office local to where you or your spouse lives. For example, if you live in Harris County, then you will file for divorce with the Harris County district clerk.
When you file for divorce in Houston, you will need to meet Texas residency requirements; you will need to have lived in Texas for at least six months,along with needing to have been a resident of the county where you are filing for divorce for at least 90 days.
The Process of Filing For Divorce in Houston, Texas
When you file for divorce, it is important to make sure that all your files are accurate and complete. Otherwise, it may cost you unnecessary time and money. The best way to ensure that everything is in order is to seek help from a Houston divorce attorney.
The steps to file for a divorce in Houston are as follows:
- Divorce proceedings begin when an original petition for divorce is filed either online or in person alongside a case information sheet. A filing fee will also need to be paid at this stage.
- Your spouse will be served your divorce petition by either a process server or a constable.
- Your spouse will need to respond to the petition within 20 days with either an original answer or a counter-petition for divorce.
- Spouses will exchange initial disclosures with information regarding finances.
- Spouses are expected to use mediation to come to agreements on key issues, such as child custody and property division.
- You will receive available dates for the court hearing, and you and your spouse must agree on a final date. There is a 60-day waiting period between filing for divorce and your hearing. However, the court will make some exceptions for cases involving domestic violence or annulments.
- If there are any contested issues that cannot be resolved using mediation, then more than one court date will be necessary for the Judge to make rulings on the couple’s behalf.
- During the hearing, the judge will review your case. If everything is in order they will sign the final divorce decree.
In Houston, legal representation is not a requirement for filing for divorce. However, the outcome of a divorce decree, such as child custody arrangements, property division, child support, and spousal support, are legally binding. The outcome of the divorce will likely have a big impact on you and your children for the rest of your lives, so it is important that your rights and needs are prioritized with the help of an attorney.
How Much Are Divorce Filing Fees in Houston?
Clerk’s filing fees are usually around $300. However, there are often additional court fees to consider, such as the cost of serving your spouse.
Rates differ between counties, so you may want to enquire with your local county clerk. If you can’t afford the fees, then you may request relief from the court, which will be reviewed to determine if you are eligible.
What Divorce Papers Are Required in Texas?
There can be a lot of legal documents required to file for divorce, depending on your circumstances. The required documents are different depending on whether or not you have children under 18 and if your spouse contests your divorce.
You will always be required to file an Original Petition for Divorce, and you may also need to file:
- Answer or Waiver of Service.
- Civil Case Information Sheet.
- Divorce Decree.
- Information on Suit Affecting Family Relationships.
- Standard or Modified Possession Order if you have children.
You can find Harris County divorce papers here. If you are unsure which forms you need to file, it is worth seeking representation from a family law attorney so that they can guide you through the process.
What Happens After The Paperwork Has Been Filed?
After your divorce papers have been filed and served, the next steps will depend on what type of divorce you are proceeding with.
In a contested divorce, the respondent is required to file an answer within 20 days. If they fail to do so, you may be granted your divorce by default.
Most divorces involve key issues that need to be worked out before the divorce can be finalized, such as the child custody arrangement, child support, and property division. The outcomes of these issues are important, and a Houston divorce attorney at Skillern Firm can guide you through the process to ensure that your interests are a priority.
Regardless of whether you are pursuing a contested or uncontested divorce, once the answer has been filed, spouses will need to exchange initial disclosures. Initial disclosures provide information about each party’s financial matters; each spouse has 30 days to provide the necessary information unless there has been a written agreement to extend this time period.
Some divorce cases require temporary orders so that couples can have guidance on key issues while they await the outcome of their divorce. Temporary orders cover things such as who will live in the marital home and who will have primary custody of the children while the divorce is finalized; Either party can request temporary orders, or the Judge may issue them independently.
Couples are expected to come to decisions themselves using mediation, but if they can’t, then the Judge will step in to make rulings on their behalf. In cases that are highly contested or those involving high assets, several hearings may be necessary before the divorce can be finalized.
How Long Does The Divorce Process Take in Houston?
In Houston, there is a 60-day waiting period before any divorce can be finalized, known as the cooling off period. Therefore, the quickest a divorce can be finalized is 61 days. However, most cases take much longer.
In order to divorce in just a few months, divorcing spouses must agree on all issues. It is rare for divorce cases to be so straightforward, leading most divorce cases take up to two years to finalize.
If couples cannot come to agreements using mediation, then each contested issue will require a court hearing. This can be incredibly time-consuming as it will be necessary to wait for the court to be available to hear each issue. In these cases, divorce could take over two years.
A divorce attorney who is a skilled mediator can help you to move your divorce along quickly without compromising your rights.
What If My Spouse Doesn’t Want to Divorce?
If your spouse doesn’t want to divorce, then you may still proceed with finalizing your divorce legally. It is not necessary for them to complete or sign any paperwork, although it may result in the court granting your requests without their input.
The divorce court may appoint an amicus attorney or guardian ad litem, who will help ensure that decisions are made in the best interest of your children. The court may also expect you to try to sit down with them in the presence of a mediator.
Does it Matter Who Files For Divorce First in Houston?
There are some advantages to filing for divorce first in Houston. First, it will allow you to have the first choice of representation. You can hire an experienced divorce attorney and can prepare the documents you need before you file for divorce. This ensures that you have plenty of time to prepare and put together a compelling case for your needs to be met.
There is also a physiological advantage. You will be prepared and organized, which will help you feel confident in negotiations. You will also have the first opportunity to request temporary orders.
If your ex-spouse has committed adultery or has abused you in any way, then filing first would allow you to file for an at-fault divorce, which will mean that the judge is quickly made aware of your experiences which may be considered when deciding on key issues.
What Are the Advantages of Working with a Houston Divorce Lawyer?
The divorce process is complex, and considering the far-reaching implications of the outcome of your divorce, it is important to have legal guidance.
An attorney will ensure that your rights and interests are protected throughout so that you can transition to a new way of life after divorce, feeling confident about your future.
Divorce involves family relationships, and it is important that they are protected as much as possible.
An attorney will help you and your spouse come to amicable agreements, which helps the divorce process move along faster, saves money on court fees, protects children from drawn out divorce proceedings, and enables you to come to personalized arrangements that fit in with you and your children’s lives.
How do I File for Divorce in Houston, Texas?
If you are considering filing for divorce in Houston, then you should contact Skillern Firm and arrange an initial consultation. Our team of attorneys has decades of experience helping clients navigate family law issues in Houston.
We take a personalized approach to the attorney-client relationship and will empower you to make decisions from a place of knowledge. Whether your case involves mediation or litigation, we can handle even the most complex divorce cases.