What is an uncontested divorce?
You’ve heard the term, but what’s the difference between contested vs. an uncontested divorce? Simply put, an uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on all terms, while a contested divorce is where the spouses cannot agree on one or more of the major issues such as child custody and visitation, child support, property distribution, and spousal support. In Texas, uncontested divorce is a good option for spouses that are amicable and can reach an agreement on their own without having to petition the divorce in front of a judge. Uncontested divorces are often referred to as simplified divorces because the spouses have agreed on all terms; fees are usually lower because you not going to trial, and there are fewer forms to complete, which makes the process move much quicker.
What are the guidelines for filing an uncontested divorce in Texas?
In Texas, uncontested divorces are limited to married couples that meet the following criteria:
- Spouses do not have children together under the age of 18
- Both spouses want to end their marriage
- Spouses do not have an open bankruptcy case
- Spouses do not own property together and do not have retirement benefits to divide
- Neither spouse is seeking alimony
In the scenario where you and your spouse cannot agree on all the major issues, or you don’t meet the above guidelines, then you wouldn’t qualify for an uncontested divorce in Texas. When that happens, Texas state makes several resources available such as divorce forms and self-help websites for couples with children where all other issues have been worked out. The attorneys at Wilson Brown, PLLC, also focus on both contested and uncontested divorce and can provide as much or as little assistance as you need based on your situation.
How do you file for an uncontested divorce in Texas ?
The steps to file for an uncontested divorce in Texas are relatively straightforward.
- Complete an Original Petition for Divorce, which informs the court and your spouse that you would like a divorce.
- Make two copies of the completed Petition. One copy is for you, and the other copy will be used to give your spouse legal notice.
- Take the Original Petition for Divorce and the two copies to the District Clerk’s Office for filing. [Note: there will be a filing fee.]
- Give your spouse legal notice – there are three ways to do this.
- Give your spouse the file-stamped copy of the Original Petition and a Waiver of Citation form, and they sign both in front of a notary.
- Use an official service by mail or in person. With this method, a process server gives notice to your spouse, either by mail or in person. (Note: If your spouse is in jail, do not use official service by mail because your spouse needs to be served in person).
- Service by publication or posting. You should only use this method of service if your spouse cannot be located.
- Wait 61 days typically from the time you filed your Original Petition, but in certain cases of domestic violence, that period gets waived.
- Determine if the case is uncontested before moving forward. You will be able to tell if your spouse is contesting the divorce from their response after they get served the divorce papers. Or, if you and your spouse agree on what to include in the divorce decree, they can then sign a Waiver of Answer, followed by the Decree of Divorce, at which point the divorce is officially “uncontested.”
- Find out when the court hears uncontested divorce cases.
- Write your Decree of Divorce, the document that outlines who will keep what property, and who will pay what, and in the scenario, you have children, this will dictate who makes decisions about the minors, which parent pays child support, and so on. The Decree of Divorce is the order the judge will sign to grant your divorce.
- Ask your spouse to sign the Decree of Divorce.
- File the signed decree in the District Clerk’s office at the courthouse.
When should you consult with an attorney?
Uncontested divorces can seem simple enough to manage on your own; however, situations arise where it is easier to have an attorney handle your affairs. In circumstances where children are involved, or where there will be a division of marital property, it is best to consult a divorce attorney before trying to handle it all singlehandedly. If you do decide to go it alone, it is recommended to have an attorney at least review your final Decree to determine if everything has been accounted for and that your property was divided correctly.
At Wilson Brown, PLLC, we understand that emotions are high, and there is often much at stake during a divorce filing, even if it’s an uncontested divorce. Wilson Brown clients benefit from our common-sense legal approach that places our clients’ needs first, above all else. We take time to collaborate on a mediated, mutually agreeable agreement that helps save our clients time, stress and money. If you wish to speak to a San Antonio attorney about uncontested divorce, please call us today at 210-591-2398 or contact us online.