By Divorce.com staff
Updated Dec 29, 2022
If you're considering ending your marriage or in the middle of a divorce case, you might wonder, "How long does a divorce take in Texas?"
While any family law attorney will tell you no one answer universally applies to all couples going through the divorce process, below are the factors that will determine how long it takes.
Let's dive right in.
How Long Does a Divorce Take in Texas?
Texas law requires a 60-day waiting period from the day a person files for divorce. An average divorce in Texas usually takes six months to a year, depending on the complexity of the case. A simple uncontested divorce could take as little as two-to-three months. A contested divorce in Texas, on the other hand, could take anywhere from 9 months to two years.
Texas Divorce Waiting Period
Unlike some states, Texas requires a 60-day waiting period. The waiting period begins the day after you file.
However, there are two circumstances where the court may waive the 60-day waiting period, which include:
- If your spouse is convicted (or the judge grants a deferred adjudication) of a crime involving domestic violence against you or a member of your household.
- If you have an active protection or magistrate's order for emergency protection against your spouse due to domestic violence during the marriage.
Length Based on The Types of Divorce
There are two types of divorce in Texas: contested and uncontested. Which type you have will significantly impact how long divorce proceedings take.
In a contested divorce, you and your spouse disagree over issues like fault, child custody, child support, spousal support/maintenance, or division of marital property, to name a few. In a contested divorce, each spouse will need legal representation by a divorce lawyer.
It also means the court will decide on any of these issues for you.
It is possible to represent yourself "pro se," but not recommended. If you and your spouse cannot resolve these issues, you should have an attorney represent your interests in court.
How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take?
It slows down the process when you and your spouse cannot agree on the divorce terms. Contested divorces take longer than uncontested divorces to finalize.
Much of the additional time results from the courts. Many times couples have to wait to appear in court for the attorneys for each side to argue their case before the judge, who then needs time to consider before making the final decision.
In most cases, contested divorces take nine months to a year to finalize. However, they can take much less or more time, too.
The total time it takes for your divorce depends on the complexity of your case and the types of issues that need resolution.
For example, suppose a couple has a lot of community property to divide, a business with assets, child custody or support issues, or disputes about spousal support. In that case, it can lengthen the time needed to finish.
In an uncontested divorce (aka an “agreed divorce”), you and your spouse could reach a divorce settlement without the court's intervention. An uncontested divorce is accomplished via a settlement agreement.
Uncontested divorces are more affordable and faster than contested ones. For example, in an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse might avoid hiring an attorney—and their legal fees—altogether.
Plus, these types are usually granted faster than contested divorces.
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?
The good news about an uncontested divorce is it streamlines the entire process. While there is no way to get around the 60-day waiting period in most cases, many uncontested divorces can finalize soon after that.
An uncontested divorce averages around 60 to 90 days, depending upon the availability of the court.
The timeline optimization is mainly because the courts are not involved in determining the agreement's details. Cooperating and pounding out a divorce agreement both parties are comfortable with outside of the legal confines (and expenses) of the court creates a much faster path to getting your final divorce.
So, how much faster is that path? The shortest amount of time an uncontested divorce that doesn't involve domestic violence or related court orders that waive the mandatory waiting period can take is 60 days plus one.
Factors Affecting Length of Divorce in Texas
Now that we have established the two paths for you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse let's consider the other factors that impact the length of your Texas divorce.
Factor 1: No-Fault vs. Fault Divorce
The first divorce form to fill out to get your Texas divorce started (either by yourself or with the help of an attorney) is your divorce petition. On this form, you must select a ground for your divorce, telling the court why you are ending the marriage.
Under Texas divorce law, the family code provides for seven grounds for divorce:
- Insupportability (aka no-fault)
- Felony Criminal Conviction
- Confinement in a Mental Hospital
The first ground is a no-fault ground. If you're selecting a no-fault ground, it will probably speed up your divorce process in Texas.
If you are the filing spouse, you could allege fault to your spouse using one of the other six fault-based reasons for a Texas divorce. However, proving a fault ground to the court takes time and prolongs your divorce case.
Also, you should hire an attorney experienced in family law in Texas if you seek a fault-based divorce.
Factor 2: Child Custody Disputes
Another significant factor affecting the timeline of a divorce case in Texas is whether children are involved.
Custody issues and child support can bring many emotions to the table that lengthen the time it takes to finalize your divorce. It would be best to consult an attorney familiar with Texas family law if you think that child custody or child support will be an issue in your divorce case.
Texas courts presume it is in the child's best interest to have continuous contact with both parents, absent any factors that would make a parent unfit to care for the child. In general, the courts believe the child should be raised by both parents, if possible.
Therefore, winning sole custody is challenging unless there's a history of abuse. So instead, it's likely to be some form of joint custody.
In some cases, a judge might decide to grant split custody. Split custody means that if there are two children, each parent will get full custody of one of the children. Usually, this decision is a consequence of the child's age or preference.
Regarding joint custody, there are three categories of it.
- Shared Physical custody refers to where the child or children physically live. In this category, the children have two residences and spend at least 35% of their time with the other parent.
- Joint Legal custody refers to which parent has the authority to make legal decisions for the child. This can include things ranging from where the child attends school to making choices about the child's medical treatment. However, the child has one primary residence.
- Combination is a category with a mix of Shared Physical and Joint Legal custody.
If you're hoping to speed things along to get your divorce papers, you and your spouse should work out a child custody arrangement. Being on the same page about child custody can help speed up the divorce process with the court.
Factor 3: Method of Dispute Resolution
Many think hiring an attorney and the long process of going to court is the only way to get divorced. However, it isn't. Several other dispute resolution methods are available for your consideration and affect how long it takes to get divorced in Texas.
Let's take a closer look at each of the options.
Courts will often encourage and sometimes require parties in litigation to go to mediation. In mediation, a neutral third party, the mediator, will help you and your spouse agree on your divorce terms.
Mediation can be a quicker and less expensive option than hiring an attorney. However, you and your spouse still pay the cost of mediation.
Suppose you want a professional other than a divorce attorney to help you negotiate. In that case, a collaborative divorce could be an option. Collaborative divorce is a combination of mediation and litigation.
In this approach, each side will hire an attorney. (It's a good idea to hire a lawyer with experience in family law and collaborative divorces.) You will also hire specialists, like a child or financial specialist, to represent your interests.
Then, you meet with the lawyers and specialists in a series of meetings to negotiate a resolution.
An increasingly popular option is an online divorce. Couples that choose this method use an online divorce service provider, like Divorce.com, to help file the paperwork.
Online divorce can save you the cost of attorney's fees, court fees, and the headache of filling out your divorce paperwork—some like this option as a DIY divorce with some help.
Online divorces are an excellent option for spouses seeking an uncontested divorce. Because they can work out an agreement without the help of a lawyer, an online divorce can also help expedite the divorce process.
In a proper DIY divorce, you and your spouse will handle your divorce without the help of lawyers. Instead, you will fill out and file your forms with the district clerk, pay the filing fee, provide your spouse with a legal notice, and do all the other parts of the process independently.
In a DIY divorce, you dramatically cut costs by not using lawyers. However, the downside of this method is that it's a lot of work.
Traditional litigation is another way to go. Hiring a lawyer to represent you in court is most straightforward with this divorce method. However, you could represent yourself.
Traditional litigation in the district court is always an option in Texas. That said, it's generally the longest road to your divorce decree because the court system can be slow.
Factor 4: The Division of Property
Texas is a community property state, which means that property acquired during the marriage is considered property of the community and belongs to both spouses (regardless of title). As a result, the court usually divides any marital assets 50/50.
Also, it is essential to remember that Texas does not recognize legal separation. So, even when you no longer live together, if you or your spouse acquire property or run up debt, that is still considered community property until your divorce is final.
Other asset issues that may come up are commingled bank accounts, assets tied to businesses, or when a couple has a significant amount of assets to divide.
There are a few exceptions to the community property rule. In some cases, if the spouse can prove the asset is that spouse's separate property, such as an inheritance, the court might rule that the asset is that spouse's sole property.
However, that may take time for the court and lawyers to sort out the paper trail.
A prenuptial agreement can also streamline this process. However, that would require already having one, which is too late for many couples.
Factor 5: Is Your Spouse Reasonable?
As you might have noticed, the timeline for your divorce depends on how reasonable you and your spouse can be. Many issues that can delay divorce finalization can be worked out if you and your spouse (or your lawyers) are approaching the process reasonably.
Every couple's divorce timeline will look different based on the specific contested issues, whether kids are involved, and the complexity of the community's assets, among others.
Therefore, when it comes to the question, "How long does it take to get divorced in Texas?" there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, at the end of the day, if you can be reasonable, the process will be less painful, and your divorce will resolve faster.
How To Expedite A Divorce In Texas
One of the best ways to expedite a divorce in Texas is to file for an uncontested divorce. Hammering out the details before seeing a judge is a great way to keep things moving toward completion.
Uncontested divorces also lend themselves to a streamlined online divorce. Platforms like Divorce.com allow couples who largely agree on the terms of their divorce to answer a few questions and receive customized and completed divorce papers in as little as two business days.
With a detailed filing guide included as part of the package, couples using Divorce.com can file with the court clerk and begin the 60-day waiting period much sooner than couples trying a DIY divorce or those with litigation-bound divorces.
In addition, couples that can organize their thoughts and wishes regarding property division and child custody are likely to optimize the timeline for divorce.
For example, couples with children would be wise to determine some form of a combed joint-custody agreement that involves both parents. Plus, having access to prenuptial agreements or having a general agreement property division in mind can help, too.
How Long Does Someone Have to Respond to Divorce Petition in Texas?
You have 20 days to respond to a petition for divorce from your spouse. To figure out your deadline, count out 20 days, including holidays and weekends, and find the following Monday.
You have until 10 am on that day to respond. If you choose not to respond by this date, the divorce can continue without you having any say.
How Fast Can a Divorce Be Finalized in Texas?
In theory, since Texas has a 60-day waiting period, a divorce could be finalized in 61 days. However, realistically, most divorces take at least six months to one year before a court will grant the final decree.
How Long Do You Have to Be Separated Before You Can File for Divorce in Texas?
Texas does not recognize legal separation or informal separation. Therefore, no separation period is necessary before filing for a divorce in Texas.
However, suppose you are claiming separation as the grounds for your fault-based divorce. In that case, you must live separately from your spouse (aka living apart) for at least three years.