How do I File For Divorce in Fort Bend County?
Filing for a Fort Bend County divorce can feel overwhelming. In rare instances where you and your spouse agree on all issues, a ‘do-it-yourself divorce’ could be possible. But when separating couples disagree on issues like child custody, child support, and property division, an attorney is integral to ensuring that a fair outcome is achieved. Once your divorce is finalized, your divorce decree will be legally binding. It can, therefore, have a significant impact on your life and the lives of your children. That is why it is so important to seek help from a family law attorney.
The sooner you contact Skillern Firm, the better. In fact, you can seek help from us before you even file for divorce. That way, we can get to know you and your situation and can offer personalized support and guidance. When you have a strategy and support from the beginning, it can make a big impact on the outcome of your case. Speaking to an attorney early on will also remove a lot of the stress. We can help you with the divorce paperwork and help you through the process with as little friction as possible. To discuss the details of your case and to learn how to begin the process of divorce, contact us today at (832) 210-2669.
Qualifying for Divorce in Fort Bend County, Texas
Before you file for divorce in Fort Bend County (also known as marriage dissolution), you need to determine whether you qualify. In accordance with The Texas Family Code, you or your spouse must have lived in Texas for at least six months. If you wish to file in Fort Bend County, then you must have lived in the County for at least 90 days. If you or your spouse are pregnant, then you will also be unable to finalize the divorce until after the child is born. However, you can still start the process during the pregnancy.
Divorce Terminology in Texas
When people start reading about divorce, it can quickly become confusing and stressful. There may be legal deadlines and procedures that you are not used to. Therefore, the very first step could be to familiarize yourself with some terminology.
- Divorce Petition – The divorce process starts with a document called a divorce petition.
- The Petitioner – Whoever files for divorce first is known as the petitioner.
- The Respondent – The other spouse will then become the respondent, and they will have 20 days to respond to the initial filing.
- The Answer – The response to the divorce petition is called the answer.
How do I File For Divorce in Fort Bend County?
To begin the process, the filing spouse will need to submit completed divorce forms. If you are filing for an uncontested divorce (meaning you have no disagreements), then you can use simplified online divorce forms and self-guided online questionnaires on the Texas Law Help website. Uncontested divorces can use divorce documents online, and the process can move forward relatively quickly. However, you should make the decision to file for divorce independently with great care. We always recommend that people seek advice from an attorney who can ensure that their rights and interests are protected.
The process of filing for an uncontested divorce in Fort Bend County is:
- Find and fill out divorce forms.
- Submit the paperwork to the county clerk’s office.
- If you have children on TANF or Medicaid, you will also need to submit the Petition to the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General.
- Pay filing fees.
- Give a copy of the paperwork to your spouse.
- Your spouse will sign the Answer or Waiver and a Decree.
- State-mandated 60-day waiting period.
- Take all paperwork with you to the divorce hearing at your local court.
- File the Divorce Decree with the county clerk once the judge signs it.
Divorce Forms in Fort Bend County
The divorce forms you will be required to complete in Fort Bend County will depend on several factors, such as if you are filing for a contested or uncontested divorce and whether you have children under 18.
The documents required for an uncontested divorce are:
- Original petition for divorce.
- Civil case information sheet.
- Answer or waiver of service.
- If you have children, then you will also need a standard or modified possession order.
- If you wish to return to your maiden name, then you will need to file an Order to restore it.
- Information on suits affecting the family relationship.
- Divorce decree.
The documents you need to file can be complex, especially in areas where you need to list your separate property and community property. You will need to make calculations, and any mistakes will cost you time and money. It is important to check everything and ensure you are happy with it before you submit it. If you are filing for a contested divorce, there will also be additional forms that you will work through with your attorney.
Filing and Serving Your Divorce Forms in Fort Bend County
You will need to bring the original form and all other documents, as well as two additional copies of everything, to the clerk’s office. (One for the clerk, one for you, and one for your spouse). You will need to pay filing fees unless you qualify for a waiver. Filing fees in Fort Bend County are around $300. There may also be additional court fees if you need services, such as serving your spouse or making copies of your papers.
The rates are susceptible to change, so it may be worth knowing how much you will need beforehand. You can find out by contacting the clerk of the district court where you are going to file. If you can’t afford the fees, then you may be able to request a waiver. The judge will review it to determine whether your circumstances grant relief.
Divorce Courts in Fort Bend County, TX
A good first step is deciding where you are going to file for divorce. Not all courts review marriage dissolution. You may need a family law courthouse. In Fort Bend County you may wish to use the following:
Court: 240th District Court
- Judge – Judge Thomas R. Culver III
- Clerk – Annie Rebecca Elliott
- Address – 1422 Eugene Heimann Cir, Richmond, Texas 77469
- Phone – 281-341-4515
Serving Your Divorce Papers in Texas
Once you have filed for divorce in Fort Bend County, you will need to serve your spouse your divorce papers, including the petition, a notice of the divorce proceeding, a blank form for them to file their answer, and any other paperwork. There are two ways to do this:
Service of Process
The most common way of serving your spouse is to have an authorized process server, constable, sheriff, or other authorized adults (with no interest in the divorce), personally deliver the documents. If this method has failed, then you may request to complete a personal service through other methods, such as email. If you still cannot find them, then you may request the judge’s permission for publication in a local newspaper.
Waiver of Service
If you and your spouse agree to everything and you do not wish to go through the formal service process, then you can simply hand the documents to your spouse. Your spouse will then need to sign a waiver form in the presence of a notary.
Next Steps in Your Fort Bend County Divorce
Once your paperwork has been filed and served, the next steps will depend on the type of divorce you are pursuing. In a contested divorce, the respondent will need to file an answer within 20 days. Otherwise, you could be granted your divorce by default. There may be issues that need to be worked out, such as those related to child custody and property division, and you should contact an attorney from Skillern Firm to guide you through the process and ensure that your rights are protected. Regardless of whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, once the respondent has filed an answer, spouses will need to exchange initial disclosures. Initial disclosures provide information and documents about each spouse’s property and other financial matters. They will need to submit this within 30 days unless there is a written agreement to extend the time.
You may also need to attend a hearing for temporary orders, which will guide you while you wait for your divorce to be finalized. Temporary orders may cover things such as child custody, who will live in the family home, and orders to prevent spouses from hiding, selling, or damaging marital property. Judges may also issue these orders independently if they think it is necessary. The judge will expect couples to try and use mediation to come to amicable decisions, but where this is not possible, they will step in. High-conflict or high-asset divorces may require many hearings to work through all the issues before the divorce can be finalized.
Why Should I Hire a Fort Bend County Divorce Attorney?
Making the decision to file for divorce is a difficult and emotional process. Once it’s been made, you need to be able to move on with your life and look towards a bright future. While emotions are high, it is easy for your judgment to be clouded, and you might agree to things in an attempt to move things along without understanding the long-term ramifications. A divorce decree is a legally binding document, and it could have a big impact on the rest of your life. It is important that matters such as property division are carried out in a fair and just manner and that any matters involving children are made with their best interests at heart.
At Skillern Firm, your Fort Bend County divorce attorney has no emotional investment in your divorce case. That means they can guide you to make the right decisions from a place of clarity. They can also lend a sympathetic ear when you need it and without judgment. Your attorney will make sure that all paperwork is filled out correctly and filed on time. Any mistakes can cost time and money, and when you have guidance from an attorney, it will take away a lot of the stress. Your attorney can explain everything to you also that it’s easy to understand. That way, you can make informed decisions that protect your future.
Skillern Firm also prioritizes mediation and negotiation wherever possible. This has many benefits, including:
- Saves time and energy because you will require less court involvement.
- It protects children from conflict.
- It allows you and your spouse to come to personalized arrangements that work for you.
- It could help you, and your ex-spouse remain amicable, which can be beneficial if you have children.
Contact Skillern Firm Today
At Skillern Firm, we are committed to helping our clients navigate divorce and empowering them to look forward to a bright future. We can guide you through all family law matters and will support you when needed, fighting for your rights when necessary. Our dedication to family law and commitment to the interests of our clients gives us a clear advantage when it comes to supporting people through divorce. We take a highly personalized approach and will take the time to learn what is important to you so that we can support you in the best way possible.
Give our law firm a call today at (832) 210-2669.