Couples considering divorce often have a lot of questions about the process, such as what options are available and how long it will take. Divorce laws vary by state, so the process of ending a marriage in Texas is not necessarily the same as it is in other parts of the country.
What is the difference between fault and no-fault divorce?
Traditionally, a person seeking divorce was required to prove in court that his or her spouse was at fault for causing the marriage to fail. Today's divorce laws, however, allow Texas couples the option of breaking up without placing blame by using a process called no-fault divorce.
To obtain a no-fault divorce in Texas, a spouse need only show that the marriage is "insupportable," which means simply that the relationship has broken down and that there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. Either spouse may file for no-fault divorce.
Along with no-fault divorce, there is also the option of filing for fault-based divorce in Texas. While fault-based divorce can be more contentious and time consuming, it is pursued in certain situations because establishing fault may permit the "innocent" spouse to receive a larger share of the couple's marital property.
Under Texas law, the grounds for fault-based divorce include:
- Felony conviction and imprisonment for one year or more (rare)
- Abandonment for one year or more (rare)
- Living apart for three years or more (rare)
- Confinement in a mental hospital for three years or more with little or no hope of recovery (rare)
How long does a divorce take in Texas?
Unlike many other states, Texas does not require couples to undergo a period of legal separation before a divorce will be granted. In fact, there is no such thing as "legal separation" in the state of Texas.
After filing for divorce in Texas, at least 60 days must elapse before a divorce can be granted. If there are disagreements about issues like child custody, property division or assignment of fault, the divorce process may be significantly longer. To help keep things stable until the divorce is finalized, the court often will issue temporary orders on issues such as child support, child custody and temporary use of certain property. The terms may differ from those of the final order.
What if I was never formally married?
Texas law recognizes two types of marriages: formal and informal. A formal marriage is one performed before a judge or a religious official. An informal marriage, also known as a common law marriage, occurs when a man and woman meet the following three conditions:
- They agree to be married
- They live together in Texas
- They act like they are married
In order to end an informal marriage, a divorce may be required, except under rare circumstances.
What is an annulment?
Under certain circumstances, Texas law permits marriages to be annulled. In contrast to divorce, which legally terminates a marriage, annulment treats the marriage as thought it never existed.
There are a number of situations in which an annulment may be granted in Texas, including:
- Intoxication by drugs or alcohol at the time of marriage
- Lack of mental capacity to enter into a marriage
- Fraud, duress or force
- Previous undissolved marriage
- Either spouse is underage
There is no waiting period for an annulment, but the party seeking an annulment must prove to the judge any of the elements referenced above. Texas residents who wish to end a marriage through divorce or annulment are encouraged to speak with a family law attorney who can answer their questions and guide them through the process.