how to file for divorce in harris county

Deciding to file for divorce is incredibly difficult. Divorce can produce emotional, financial, and relational hardships that many people would prefer not to face.

We are sorry if you find yourself facing the possibility of divorce. In addition to the difficulty of family changes, there is a lot of paperwork involved in filing for divorce.

The following article can help you understand how to file for divorce in Harris County and Houston, Texas.

 

How to File for Divorce in Houston, Texas

As you probably know, making the decision to file for divorce often happens a long time before either spouse decides to involve the legal system.

Once you are ready to start the process, there are a number of things you must do to ensure your paperwork is accepted by the court and your divorce can be finalized. You can file for divorce on your own, but most find the process overwhelming, especially if children or property is involved.

This is especially true when a spouse has a retirement account, stock options or pension benefits which need to be valued and properly divided.

For pensions, military benefits, and Teacher Retirement System benefits, the value reflected on the annual statement is only a fraction of what the present value of the benefit is actually worth. 

Without the guidance of an experienced divorce attorney many litigants leave the actual value of those assets out of the division of their estate. 

This results in one spouse losing out on the value of those benefits and receiving far less than he or she would have if they had an attorney involved from the onset of the litigation. Most individuals going through a divorce need the help of an experienced divorce attorney to make sure they are treated fairly in the process. 

We’ll take care of everything else.

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Legal Reasons for a Divorce

When initiating any divorce in Texas, you can plead no-fault or for a fault-based divorce. There are many reasons why a Texas court will grant a divorce.

With a no-fault divorce, the court looks for a marriage that is insupportable because of discord or conflict that has destroyed the relationship and prevented reconciliation; basically you and your spouse just no longer get along as a married couple. 

In addition to no-fault divorces, the courts can grant you a fault-based divorce for a host of various reasons including: 

  • Cruelty;
  • Adultery;
  • Felony conviction;
  • Abandonment;
  • Living apart; and
  • Mental hospital confinement.

Once you have identified your reason for divorcing and you’re ready to start the process, the divorce petition must be filed with the court and, in most instances, your spouse must be personally served with a copy of that petition.  

The Divorce Petition

The legal part of your divorce begins with a petition for dissolution of marriage. Your petition doesn’t have to include all the facts regarding why you want to dissolve your marriage, but you have to identify one of the legal reasons for divorce discussed above.

When stating your reason for dissolution, you must write it in a way that is substantially the same as how it’s written in the Texas divorce statutes. 

Once the petition is ready it must be filed with the court and a qualified process server must serve your spouse with a copy. Your spouse can also follow certain steps to waive personal service of the divorce.

A key factor in getting your divorce started properly is filing for divorce in the right county and properly effectuating service. 

How to Identify Where to File Your Divorce Petition

You or your spouse has to fulfill a number of residency requirements before you can file for divorce in Texas. In general, you or your spouse has to have been a domiciliary of Texas for six months immediately prior to filing for divorce.

If you or your spouse has been living in Texas long enough, you file for divorce in the county where either of you have lived for the past 90 days.

If you don’t live in Texas but your spouse has lived here for six months or more, you can file for divorce in whichever county your spouse lives when you file. 

However, if children are involved the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) applies and the proper venue for the child-related issues is the state the children have lived in for the preceding six-month period.  Naturally, that state is usually where you want to file for divorce as well.

Where to File for Divorce in Houston? 

If you or your spouse live in Houston, you might be asking, “Where do I file for divorce in Houston?” If you’re filing for divorce in Houston, Texas, you’ll generally be filing for divorce in Harris County.

Information about the Houston divorce court in Harris County is below. 

Where to File for Divorce in Harris County

Harris County encompasses Houston and many other municipalities in Texas. If you’re asking, Where do I file for divorce in Harris County? The answer is that you can drop off your petition with the Harris County divorce court at the following address:

The Harris County Civil Courthouse

201 Caroline 

Houston, Texas 77002

You can mail divorce pleadings to the divorce court at the following address: 

The Harris County District Clerk, Marilyn Burgess

P.O. Box 4651

Houston, Texas 77210

You can also e-file your divorce pleadings at efiletexas.gov

If you have an attorney, they will take care of the divorce filing for you.

While this obviously costs money, having a seasoned attorney guide you through the process usually will help you save in the long run, by ensuring your divorce decree covers all necessary parent-child issues and that there no undivided or undervalued assets left on the table at the end of the day.

If you have additional questions about where to file divorce papers in Harris County and you choose to represent yourself but need those questions answered before visiting the courthouse, you can call Family Intake at 832-927-5700. 

After you’ve filed for divorce in Harris County, you move on to settlement negotiations, or divorce proceedings and a Final Decree of Divorce will be entered.

Because a decision to file for divorce should be made after a lot of consideration, the law requires the court system to refrain from finalizing your divorce for at least 60 days after you file your petition. These 60 days allow you and your spouse to “cool off” before potentially moving forward with dissolution. 

Divorce Proceedings 

In a divorce proceeding, the court decides how to distribute community assets, community debt, and parenting rights and responsibilities.

This stage of the process normally requires the exchange of copious amounts of paperwork and sworn statements between the divorcing spouses.

Uniquely, divorce cases that go to trial in Texas can involve juries to assist in making certain decisions. Specifically, conservatorship, geographic restrictions, and characterization of property.

You might need to provide copies of your divorce decree to third parties for various legal, financial, and personal reasons. Once your divorce is final, you can obtain a certified copy of your divorce decree from Harris County on the Harris County District Clerk’s website

Harris County Divorce Filing Fees

Each county in Texas charges a filing fee for filing for divorce. The cost of a petition for divorce in Harris County depends on the circumstances of your divorce.

Generally, the Harris County divorce filing fee for a divorce with children is $320, and the fee for a divorce without children is $293. 

Harris County Divorce Papers and Forms

The Harris County divorce court provides downloadable versions of many of its family law papers and forms online. If you don’t see the forms you need, you can call the Family Intake number listed above for assistance.

Be warned, however, these forms are general guideposts and do not include unique visitation schedules, holiday visitation with children, passport provisions, unique parameters involving rights and duties nor are they tailored to your specific property.

Hire an Attorney for the Support and Guidance You Need

Filing for divorce in Harris County, Texas, or anywhere else, is not easy. Even if you can figure out the forms and where to file them, fighting over who is awarded certain rights in relation to the children and who should have which assets can be complicated and the wrong advice, or lack of advice, can often lead to devastating consequences for litigants.

Our highly experienced family law attorneys at The Stout Law Firm, PLLC are professional and compassionate advocates who are here to support you through a difficult time.

You are likely going to need plenty of time and space to adjust to your changing family circumstances. You can take the time you need while we fight to protect your rights in court.

We practice family law exclusively, and we’re committed to helping our clients face tough family issues head-on.

If you’re ready to file for divorce or you want guidance about your options, we hope you’ll give us a call. You can call us at (713) 980-4300 or contact us online to set up a consultation.


Angela Stout

Angela A. Stout was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 2007. Ms. Stout has practiced law since 2007, with an emphasis in representing clients in family law matters. She earned her Juris Doctorate degree from South Texas College of Law in May of 2007. Ms. Stout became Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in December of 2015. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization is a specialized group of attorneys that must obtain exceptional experience in a specific area of law, pass a comprehensive exam, and complete ongoing continuing legal education in that specialized area. Additionally, Ms. Stout is certified as a mediator by the A.A. White Dispute Resolution Center.

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