Filing for divorce in Dallas County can be overwhelming. Going it alone in Dallas County divorce court can be perilous. Nevertheless, the state provides help on its website for self-represented parties filing for divorce in Dallas County.
In general, low conflict and fewer assets mean a faster and easier divorce. A contested divorce can take significantly longer. Here, we discuss Dallas County’s divorce filing requirements for both contested and uncontested divorces.
Where to File For Divorce in Dallas, Texas
Texas encourages the use of electronic filing. However, self-represented parties may file their pleadings in paper form. Parties can file their paperwork at the Peal C. Smith Civil File Desk on the first floor of the George L. Allen Court Building. Information on the Dallas County divorce filing fees is available here.
Parties should file all pleadings that do not require a Dallas County divorce filing fee (motions, etc.) at the clerk’s window next to the courtroom hearing your case. Note that Texas law requires all attorneys to file divorce papers in Dallas County electronically.
Can I File for a Dallas County Divorce Online?
Yes. In fact, attorneys must file electronically for family law cases. Texas also encourages self-represented parties filing for divorce in Dallas County to file electronically. To file, you will need to select and register with an electronic filing service provider. You can do this on the Texas website here.
After registration, you may upload your court documents anytime. The website is open 24 hours a day. The date and time of your filing will be the submission date and time. Once accepted, you will be notified by email. Note that you must submit a completed civil case information sheet at the time you file your divorce petition. This form is available on the Texas website here.
Steps to File for an Uncontested Divorce in Dallas County & Required Forms
Uncontested divorces are the easiest divorces to get. If the parties agree on everything, they simply have to wait the 60 days “cooling off” period required under Texas law, then be on their way.
Uncontested Divorce (No Minor Children)
If you and your spouse agree on all issues related to property division, have no minor children, and own no real property, then you may seek an uncontested divorce. For self-represented parties, the State of Texas website provides a comprehensive set of Dallas County divorce forms and instructions needed to obtain an uncontested divorce in the state. These forms include:
- Affidavit of Indigency,
- Original Petition for Divorce,
- Waiver of Service,
- Final Decree of Divorce,
- Certificate of Last Known Address,
- Notice of Change of Address, and
- Affidavit of Military Status.
However, even with a simple divorce such as this, it’s a good idea to have an attorney look over your documents before filing.
Uncontested Divorce (With Minor Children)
If you have children, you can still qualify for an uncontested divorce if
- You and your spouse agree about all the issues (including child custody and child support) and will both sign the necessary court forms; and
- There are no court orders for custody and support of your children already in place.
The State of Texas website provides forms for an uncontested divorce with minor children here.
Steps to File a Contested Divorce in Dallas County & Required Forms
The pace of a contested divorce typically varies according to the level of cooperation by the non-filing spouse. Like uncontested divorces, contested divorces in Texas include (1) a Petition for Divorce (including summons); (2) Service of Process; and (3) a Final Divorce Decree.
Original Petition for Divorce and Summons
A petition or complaint for divorce kicks the process off. It must be on file for at least 60 days before a court will rule on it. Courts call this a “cooling off” period. The intent behind the law is to minimize the divorce rate by promoting reconciliation between the parties.
The petition sets out the parties, children, and basis for seeking a divorce. The most common basis for a divorce in Texas is that the parties have irreconcilable differences that render the marriage insupportable.
Courts call this a no-fault divorce. In the alternative, petitioners for a divorce in Texas may seek a fault-based divorce. Grounds for a fault-based divorce include cruelty, abandonment for over one year, adultery, and felony conviction.
Parties must attach a summons and serve it along with the divorce petition. A summons is an official court document that informs the other spouse of the divorce proceedings. In Texas, the respondent spouse has until the first Monday following 20 days after the date of service to respond. They must file a response on or before this date at 10:00 AM or risk a default judgment.
Certificate of Service of Process
A Certificate of Service of Process states to the Court that the divorce petition, subsequent motions, and other pleadings have been sent via certified mail or hand-delivered to the other spouse in the divorce. Texas also allows spouses to serve each other via a private process server or sheriff. In rare cases where a spouse can’t be located, a court may permit service by social media or publication in a newspaper.
Final Divorce Order
After 60 days and a hearing for an uncontested divorce, or after trial for a contested divorce, the court will issue a Final Decree of Divorce. Here, the court spells out who is entitled to what property and rules on all child custody and support matters.
What If Your Spouse Doesn’t Want a Divorce?
In Texas, individuals don’t need their spouse’s consent to get divorced. You just need to serve them and pay the filing fees. If your spouse simply refuses to participate in the divorce outright, then you can get a default judgment.
Your spouse will have until the first Monday following 20 days from the date of service in which to respond. If they fail to respond within that time, you may motion the court to issue a default divorce. If you get a default divorce, your spouse will have little to no say in how the property is divided or in matters of child custody and support.
In the event your spouse refuses to cooperate after the divorce proceedings are underway, you may be able to file a motion for contempt of court. For example, such a motion would be appropriate where your spouse refuses to cooperate with a valid request for financial documents or cell phone records.
Trust an Experienced and Proven Dallas County Family Law Firm
From the moment you contact the Hunnicutt Law Group until the case is concluded, we are here for you every step of the way. Even an uncontested divorce in Dallas County can be overwhelming and perilous to navigate alone. The seasoned attorneys at Hunnicutt Law Group specialize in providing clients with individualized attention, creative solutions, and, when necessary, zealous advocacy at trial. Contact us today for a free consultation.