The Texas divorce process starts with the filing of a document entitled Original Petition for Divorce. You are not required to sign the petition unless you are acting as your own Texas divorce lawyer. Accordingly, if you want to review it before it is filed and delivered to your spouse, please let your divorce and family law attorney know. It is our preference that our clients review the petition--whcih depending on the fact can vary from 2-40+ pages. The Petition must contain certain information and include certain representations by the party, like where they and the children live. For instance, if there is a premarital agreement between the parties, it should be called to the attention of the Court and the other side in the first pleading.
Texas Courts cannot grant a divorce without disposing of property issues at the same time. Additionally, if children were born to or adopted during the marriage, orders concerning their conservatorship (child custody) and child support will also be determined at the same time. In other words, it all happens at the same time in the same proceeding (for lawyers-- no bifurcation). Beofre the Court can grant a divorce, it must determine that the Court has jurisdiction to grant a divorce, which is based on one or both parties domicile and residency not only in the State of Texas but also in the County where the divorce is filed. In certain instances, military personnel stationed in other places can get a divorce in Texas. Texas statutes define a marriage as being between a man and a woman, but see the article Gay Divorce in Play in Texas - about the ability of a Texas Court to divorce a gay couple. This issue is also beofre the US SUpreme Court in 2013.
This petition is filed with the District Clerk in most counties, and your case is assigned to a Court. In some smaller counties, a County Court at Law may also handle divorce and family law matters. In Dallas, there are seven Family Law District Courts. In Ft. Worth, there are also seven. The filing of divorce and family law cases is random. Your family law lawyer cannot select the Court or the Judge. In other counties, the courts that handle divorces also handle general civil cases and criminal cases; for instance, Collin County has nine District Courts that handle family law cases as well as the other types of cases; Denton County has six..
After processing at the Courthouse, the Original Petition for Divorce must be delivered to your spouse. The most common formal means of delivery ( this is called process of service) is by having a Sheriff, Constable, or private process server hand your spouse the petition and a Citation. Once served, your spouse has a limited number of days in which a response must be made, or that nonanswered spouse could be defualted. .When served in Counites that have one, the restraints and other terms of a Standing Order that is attached to the Petition and Citation goes into effect.
It may be appropriate some instances for you may wish to personally deliver or mail the papers to your spouse. This may be a wise path if you expect that your divorce will be amicable. But if you have requested a Temporary Restraining Order or a hearing, you must serve your spouse, or otherwise get the spouse to "appear" in the case because you can not show that your spouse has been legally served with notice to be at the hearing. Your spouse does not waive service or file an answer in Court, or simmply appear in Court at the appointed time, but your delivery does not constitute effective service, or notice of the hearing or of the divorce proceeding.