Find out answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding marriage and divorce in the state of Texas.

Does Texas have an age requirement for marriage?

Yes. Both parties must be at least 18 years old to obtain a marriage license. If either party is under 18 years of age, parent consent or a court order is required.

Can I marry someone who is related to me?

It depends. You may not marry (1) someone who is an ancestor (mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, etc.) or descendent (son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, etc.); (2) your brother or sister; (3) your parent's brother or sister (aunt or uncle); (4) your niece or nephew.

What is a "licensed marriage"?

A "licensed marriage" or "ceremonial marriage" requires a license and is performed by an authorized official (minister, priest, rabbi, judge, etc.).

What is an informal marriage or "common-law marriage"?

An informal marriage (sometimes called a common-law marriage) can be created when a man and woman sign and register an official document of marriage at the county clerk's office. A man and woman may also enter into an informal marriage if they agree to be married, live together in Texas as husband and wife, and represent to others that they are married.

Is there a "common-law" divorce?

No. If the parties to a non-registered informal marriage separate and live apart for two (2) years or more, the parties may or may not need a divorce depending on the circumstances. Parties to a registered informal marriage must be divorced the same as parties who were married in a ceremony with a marriage license.

Is an annulment different from a divorce?

Yes. An "annulment" is a proceeding to have a marriage declared void as if it never took place. A "divorce" is the proceeding to end a valid marriage.

What are the grounds for an annulment?

An annulment will be granted if (1) the parties are related, by blood or adoption, as set out above, or (2) either party was previously married and the prior marriage has not been dissolved. An annulment may be granted if at the time of the marriage one party to the marriage was (1) underage, (2) under the influence of alcohol or drugs, (3) impotent, (4) mentally incompetent, (5) forced to marry, or (6) was misled about prior divorce. In most cases, the law requires that the person seeking the annulment must cease living together with the other party once the problem is discovered.

Must fault be found against a party for a divorce to be granted?

No. In Texas, a divorce may be granted without either party being at fault. A divorce may also be granted when one party is found to be at fault in the break-up of the marriage.

How long must I live in Texas to get a divorce here?

Before filing, one of the spouses must live in Texas for at least six (6) months and in the county where the divorce is filed for at least ninety (90) days.

Is this different if I am in the Military?

Yes. Time spent by a Texas resident outside of Texas, while in the military satisfies the residency requirement in Texas for a divorce.

What is a board-certified family attorney?

Attorneys who meet certain qualifications set out by the State Bar of Texas may become board certified in family law.

Do the rates charged by attorneys differ?

Yes, depending on their knowledge, experience, qualification, and the complexity of the case.

How do I begin my divorce suit?

A petition for divorce must be filed in the district clerk's office and the required fees paid.

What if there are children of the marriage?

If there are children born, adopted, or expected during the marriage, the suit for divorce must also address matters of custody, visitation, and child support. If a wife has given birth to a child or is expecting a child since the time she married, but the child is not or may not be the biological child of her husband, that information must be given to the court as soon as possible.

Who is the "Petitioner" and who is the "Respondent"?

The party who files divorce first is called the "Petitioner" and the other party is called the "Respondent."

Does my spouse get notified if I file my petition?


How is my spouse notified?

By receiving a copy of the petition from a sheriff, constable, or court approved private process server; or certified mailing from the district clerk's office; or if the parties agree, the non-filing spouse may, after the petition is filed, sign a document called a "waiver"; or if the spouse cannot be located, notice can be published.

What happens after my spouse is notified of the filing?

Once a Respondent is officially notified, there is a deadline to file a response to the petition. If the deadline is not met, the Petitioner may be able to go forward and obtain a divorce by "default."

What is a Temporary Restraining Order?

A Temporary Restraining Order sets forth the acts which either or both parties are prohibited from doing immediately after the petition is filed. Sometimes this order is called a "TRO."

Can I get a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) without notice to my spouse?

Yes, if the court approves the request for a TRO.

What happens if the TRO is violated?

A person who violates a TRO, or any other court order, can be held in contempt of court and punished by a fine and/or a jail sentence.

Can my spouse ask for a divorce also?

Yes. The Respondent may file his or her own request for divorce in a document usually called a counter-petition for divorce.

What happens if I reconcile with my spouse?

You may dismiss your divorce proceeding.

How soon can the court grant my divorce?

A petition for divorce must be filed with the court for at least sixty (60) days before the court can grant the divorce.

How long does it take to get a divorce?

If the parties are in agreement, a divorce proceeding can be finalized soon after the sixty-day waiting period is over. If the parties are not in agreement, the time it takes will depend on the court's schedule and the complexity of the case. From start to finish, the divorce process may go through a number of phases which might include temporary orders, exchange of financial information, psychological evaluations (in custody cases), alternative dispute resolution, trial, and appeal. A divorce in which the parties are not in agreement on some or all issues will usually take at least several months.

When am I divorced?

You are divorced when all the property and child-related issues are resolved and the judge signs an order, usually called a Decree of Divorce.

How long must I wait to get married again?

In most cases, you must wait thirty (30) days, but the court can grant a waiver to permit you to marry sooner.
Gary Ashmore
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Helping Dallas & Highland Park, Texas area families with Family Law, Probate & Estate Planning needs.
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