Getting divorced in Texas can be costly, but a divorce does not have to be financially devastating. Uncontested divorces are generally the best-case scenario for couples pursuing a divorce. With an uncontested divorce, the couple agrees on all of the major aspects of their divorce. Uncontested divorces are typically finalized more quickly and more affordably than contested divorces. Generally, uncontested divorces result in fewer disputes between spouses and eliminate costly child custody battles.
Pursuing a contested divorce can help avoid unnecessary stress for you and your children. Becoming eligible for an uncontested divorce requires both parties to be on the same page and work to move the process along. The attorneys at Divorce Concierge offer clients flat-rate packages for uncontested divorces. We help residents in McKinney, Texas, and the surrounding area finalize their uncontested divorces affordably, with no surprise legal expenses, so they can begin their new normal.
What is an Uncontested Divorce in Texas?
An uncontested divorce is exactly what it sounds like. When a couple pursues an uncontested divorce, their marriage ends in an uncontested manner, without disagreement or argument from either party. Both parties must agree on all aspects of the divorce for it to be considered uncontested. When the parties cannot agree on one or more essential aspects of the divorce, they will need to pursue a contested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the parties will need to agree on all of the following terms:
- Spousal support (alimony)
- Division and allocation of marital debts and assets
- Child custody
- Child support
- Child medical support
- Child visitation
When the two parties can make a mutual decision about all of these aspects of a divorce on their own, they can create an informal divorce settlement agreement, a mediated settlement agreement, or the agreed divorce decree. All of these forms of legal divorce are acceptable as settlement documents. They can present the document before the court, and the judge can make the agreement legally binding in most cases. While an uncontested fivorce is possible for many people, when a couple has significant assets or has minor children, agreeing upon the division of property and matters related to their children can be difficult
Requirements for an Uncontested Divorce in Texas
You need to meet three basic requirements to file for an uncontested divorce in Texas. You will need to meet state residency requirements, agree on the reason for your divorce, and agree on all of the issues in your divorce. Texas’s residency requirement applies to everyone seeking a divorce, whether it is contested or uncontested. To pursue a divorce in Texas, one or both spouses must have lived:
- In Texas for six months before filing, and
- In the county in which they plan to file for divorce, for at least 90 days
Both Spouses Must Agree on the Reason for the Divorce
To pursue a divorce, you need a legally accepted reason, or ground, for getting divorced. Texas is a no-fault divorce state. The party seeking a divorce does not need to prove a legally recognized, fault-based ground for divorce. Historically, states only recognized a few fault-based grounds for divorce, such as adultery. Now, all states allow parties to pursue a divorce without proving fault.
When pursuing a no-fault divorce, the couple agrees that the marriage has become insupportable because of conflict or a clash of personalities and that it is not reasonable to expect to reconcile. You can also file for a no-fault divorce in Texas based on being separated, but you will need to show that you and your spouse have lived apart for at least three years without cohabitation (sexual relations). In the vast majority of uncontested divorce cases, both parties agree to a no-fault divorce.
Fault-Based Divorce in Texas
Texas also recognizes fault-based divorce for adultery, cruelty, abandonment, and other reasons. When one party seems to place the fault of the divorce on the other party, it is usually not possible to seek an uncontested divorce. In these cases, the divorce will typically go to trial, or the parties must agree on the fault-based grounds for divorce.
Agreeing to fault-based grounds is possible when there is enough evidence proving the fault, such as text messages and photos proving adultery. Even when one party’s fault has led to the dissolution of the marriage, there are benefits to pursuing a no-fault, uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces are typically more procedural and less emotionally draining.
Proving fault in a divorce case can take significant time, cause emotional trauma to the parties involved and their children, and result in significantly higher legal fees. When parties cannot agree on the grounds for divorce, whether fault-based or no-fault, an uncontested divorce is not an option. If you are not sure whether you should pursue a fault-based or no-fault divorce, we recommend discussing your case with an attorney.
Pursuing Mediation to Resolve Outstanding Disputes
For many divorcing couples, agreeing on every aspect of the divorce is difficult. There are many different factors that spouses must agree on before they can pursue an uncontested divorce. Perhaps you would like to pursue an uncontested divorce, but there is one issue on which you and your spouse cannot completely agree. If you are having trouble agreeing on one or more issues but would still like to pursue an uncontested divorce, you may consider mediation.
During the mediation process, a mediator will prepare a document that reflects any agreements you have already reached in the process. The mediator will work with both parties to move toward resolution on any areas of disagreement. Mediators are unbiased third parties, meaning they do not favor one party or the other. Working with an unbiased third party may be able to help you find creative ways to resolve any outstanding issues so you can pursue an uncontested divorce.
What if I Have Minor Children?
Issues related to children can be some of the most contentious in a divorce. Child support, child custody, and child visitation issues need to be resolved before the parties can seek and uncontested divorce. Some people assume they cannot pursue an uncontested divorce if they have minor children. However, uncontested divorce is always an option, even when the case involves a child or children under the age of 18.
The parties must agree on parental rights and duties, child support, the child’s residential geographic restriction, medical support, child visitation, and access. When the parties can agree to all of these terms, they can spare their child the emotional turmoil of seeing their parents go through a contested divorce. When parents can work together to resolve these issues out of court in a civil manner, the entire family will benefit, especially the children.
Staying Safe When Domestic Violence Has Occurred
If you have been the victim of domestic violence, you are not alone. If you have experienced any type of domestic violence in a relationship and you are pursuing divorce, you should not hand deliver any of the legal forms to your spouse. This is especially true if a pending or signed protective order is in place that prohibits your spouse from contacting you. In these situations, we recommend working with an attorney who can ensure that you serve your spouse papers safely and appropriately.
If you or your children have experienced domestic violence by your spouse, you may need a protective order. Under Texas law, family violence includes threats, stalking, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or using controlled substances that cause injury to a child. You can pursue a temporary restraining order to protect yourself and your children. A hearing will be scheduled within a few weeks, and the court will have the option to extend the protective order.
In many cases, the parties will agree to certain terms and have them documented by the court in the form of a temporary restraining order. In these cases, the order functions more like an agreement. Restraining orders are more common in contested divorces. Suppose you need to request a restraining order against your soon-to-be ex-spouse. In that case, there is a good chance you will not be able to agree on all of the important aspects of a divorce, making you ineligible to pursue an uncontested divorce. Nonetheless, it is important that you reach out to an attorney who can help you protect yourself and pursue a contested divorce settlement that is fair and equitable.
Uncontested Divorces and Pre-Nuptial or Post-Nuptial Agreements
Suppose you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement and are pursuing an uncontested divorce. In that case, the property division in your final decree needs to match the terms of the agreement. In other words, you must agree to a division of property in your divorce that aligns with the terms of your prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. You must include any pre- or post-nuptial agreements in the Required Initial Disclosures.
The court will be able to review these documents as evidence during the status or prove-up hearings. If the settlement agreement in your final decree and the agreement in your pre- or post-nuptial agreement do not match, the court will dig deeper into why there is a difference. One spouse may feel pressured or be compelled to agree to a division of property they do not want.
How Long Will it Take My Uncontested Divorce to be Finalized?
Generally, uncontested divorces are finalized in less time than contested divorces. The more issues a couple must resolve before they get divorced, the longer the process will take. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on all of the terms of the divorce, resulting in their divorce being finalized sooner. However, under Texas law, there is a mandatory waiting period, even for those pursuing uncontested divorces.
Even if you and your spouse agree on every detail of your divorce, you will still need to wait a minimum of 60 days after filing your divorce petition before the court can enter the final divorce decree. You can submit your paperwork to a judge as soon as possible when there are no disputes.
The judge will review the paperwork and ensure it complies with Texas law. You may need to appear in a prove-up hearing and answer questions from the judge so the judge can ensure that you agree to the terms of the divorce of your own free will. The process could take longer if you have an issue that still needs to be resolved. Additionally, emotions and personality can also impact the timeframe. Overall, pursuing an uncontested divorce will save you significant time. The 60-day waiting period may seem like a long time, but it goes by quickly for many people.
How to Begin an Uncontested Divorce in Texas
First, you must ensure you meet the residency requirements discussed above. If you do not meet these requirements, the court will lack jurisdiction over your divorce, and you will need to wait until they have been met to file for divorce. Once the residency requirements have been met, you will need to discuss and agree on all the issues in your divorce with your spouse. This is a step that is frequently overlooked. Merely assuming that you and your spouse agree on all of the issues involved in your divorce is not enough.
Instead, you should sit down and talk to your spouse calmly about all the issues in your case in detail before you file for divorce. In many cases, spouses who think they agree on everything will find issues that are still unresolved. This conversation with your spouse should occur before you begin the process of filing for divorce in earnest. You will need to have a tentative agreement on all the major issues in your divorce before filing.
Filing Paperwork for an Uncontested Divorce in Texas
You will need to complete all the applicable forms to file for divorce in Texas. You will need to provide an original and two copies of your divorce petition to the district court clerk of the county in which you or your spouse have lived in the last 90 days. You can deliver copies to the clerk’s office or use an electronic filing system. Once you have filed the divorce petition with the clerk, you will need to serve the petition to your spouse together with a citation, which you can obtain from the clerk’s office.
Most people have the sheriff’s office or a private process server hand over the documents to their spouses. If you and your spouse are pursuing a non-contested divorce and cooperating together, you should be able to bypass formal service by having your spouse sign and file a waiver of service only. For those hoping to move the process along quickly, your spouse may also sign the final decree of divorce while signing the waiver of service. The final decree will lay out the agreement’s provisions, and it needs to be submitted to the court to finalize the divorce. If your spouse does not sign the decree and chooses to respond to the divorce petition by filing an answer, you will both be required to exchange initial disclosures.
These disclosures provide documents and information about your retirement plans, property, and financial matters. Even when a divorce is uncontested, disclosures will need to be exchanged within 30 days after the answer has been filed. If your spouse does not respond to the divorce petition within the required amount of time, you may still be able to get divorced through a default judgment. You will still need to provide evidence supporting the requisitions you have made in your divorce petition.
Do I Need to Go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce in Texas?
Uncontested divorces move through the system more quickly than contested divorces. Most of the work required for spouses to reach an uncontested divorce takes place outside the courtroom. Generally, at least one spouse must go before a judge to answer questions during the prove-up hearing. During this hearing, the judge will ensure that both parties understand the consequences of their actions.
Even when both parties have agreed to all the terms, it is still up to the judge to decide to grant the divorce. Judges want to confirm that both parties are signing the agreement voluntarily and are confident in their decision and agreeing to the terms of the divorce of their own free will. However, prove-up hearings are mainly a formality and usually do not make or break a divorce case. These hearings are less significant than a formal trial in a contested divorce. In most cases, the judge will grant the divorce under the parties’ agreed-upon terms.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney While Pursuing an Uncontested Divorce?
Sometimes people assume that since they are not pursuing a contested divorce, they do not need an attorney. However, even in an uncontested divorce, the couple must provide the court with a final divorce decree. For someone with no legal experience, it can be difficult, if not impossible to create a legally valid and thorough final decree of divorce. You will also have to attend a short hearing called a prove-up hearing and answer questions.
If the decree you and your spouse have provided the court is not legally enforceable, you may need to redraft the document and return to court, costing you additional time and money. Divorce settlement agreements are serious and can have a long-term impact on your personal life and your financial future. Working with an attorney will ensure that the document protects you and your rights. Your attorney can also ensure that you understand all of the provisions in your divorce settlement and correct any red flags that could lead to legal challenges.
How Much Will an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
In nearly every case, an uncontested divorce is significantly cheaper than a traditional, contested divorce. When the parties cannot agree on significant issues, including splitting retirement accounts and other complex financial assets, the cost of an attorney can increase significantly. Traditional legal fee agreements can cost clients $350 or more per hour.
At Divorce Concierge, we provide clients with flat-rate packages for uncontested divorces. These packages allow clients to enjoy the benefits of working with a skilled family law attorney while also understanding exactly how much they will be paying in legal fees. Instead of worrying about how many hours your attorney will need to bill you each week, you can rest assured that you will be paying a flat rate or your uncontested divorce.
What Happens After My Divorce is Finalized?
There are some variances between Texas counties and between individual cases regarding the procedure after the divorce has been finalized. Generally, once a family court judge signs a final divorce decree, the marriage has been officially dissolved. From this point forward, the parties are no longer married to each other in the eyes of the law.
Instead, they are separate legal and financial entities. The parties remain bound to the terms of the divorce agreement. Even if the parties agree to change the agreement after the divorce has been finalized, they cannot unless they successfully petitioned the court to modify the divorce agreement. In Texas, parties are ineligible to enter a new marriage for at least 31 days after the divorce.
Questions About Uncontested Divorce? Contact Divorce Concierge
When you trust Divorce Concierge with your divorce case, you will experience several benefits. We will set goals for your divorce up-front by defining your priorities and what you would like to achieve through the divorce settlement. Using a flat fee billing process encourages us to work efficiently to obtain for our clients the results they deserve. Any inefficiency on our part is our financial responsibility, not yours. We will think of creative strategies to pursue your uncontested divorce quickly and effectively.
At Divorce Concierge, we provide clients in McKinney, Texas, with affordable, flat-rate divorce services. Our skilled family law attorneys know how to navigate the divorce process in Texas. We use our experience to help our clients finalize their divorces and move on with a fresh start. If you have questions about our flat-rate, uncontested divorce process, contact Divorce Concierge today.