Texas Court Records
The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Texas
In Texas, marital unions are dissolved either through divorce or annulment. In a divorce, the petitioner and respondent both agree that the marriage is legal. However, spouses seeking an annulment disagree on the existence of the union. Generally, Texas district courts have jurisdiction over divorce or annulment cases. A divorce or annulment case is only valid if it meets the residency requirements or grounds for divorce/annulment in Texas. Section 6 of the Texas family code contains all required grounds for divorces and annulments in the state.
What is a Texas Divorce Decree?
Divorce decrees in Texas contain the final judgment on a divorce/annulment case. The court document includes information such as child support and custody, asset division, and alimony. A divorce decree is only obtainable at the court where the case was settled.
Uncontested divorces can be quickly settled upon agreement of both parties. A divorce decree, in this case, indicates the terms of the settlement. Contested divorces often go to trial and are settled by the judge. Divorce decrees reveal the judge's decision, which spouses must obey. As contained in Section 9 of the Texas family code, state residents affected by a divorce decree can file a suit to enforce the order.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
What is an Annulment in Texas?
An annulment is a lawsuit that nullifies the existence of a marriage. The purpose of an annulment is to declare a marriage illegal. Note that to file for annulment successfully, the plaintiff or respondent must live or be married in Texas. An annulment can also be complicated compared to divorce, which may be granted on a no-fault basis. Once the union is declared illegal, spouses must complete an annulment decree to be presented to and signed by the judge. Generally, an annulment record is available to the spouses immediately after the judge signs it. Interested persons seeking to obtain such documents must provide a court order.
Annulment vs. Divorce in Texas
Annulment and divorce in Texas both serve one purpose, which is to end marital ties. However, the methods and concepts differ. A divorce is aimed at ending a legal union while an annulment involves declaring a union illegal.
One key difference between a divorce and annulment is legal grounds. The state of Texas accepts no-fault grounds for divorce. This means that parties can simply file for divorce without any legitimate reasons. Nonetheless, there must be legal grounds for an annulment to occur. According to Section 6.102 of Texas family code, legal grounds for annulment in the state include:
- Incest: Marriages involving brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, niece and nephew, are illegal in Texas. As such, they are legal reasons to file for an annulment.
- Bigamy: Marriage to a legally married individual is not valid. However, this ground for annulment is not sufficient if it is discovered that both parties are not married, or one of them has cut ties with a former spouse.
- Underage marriage: A marriage can be declared void or illegal if it involves a spouse that is less than 18 years. However, a 16-year-old spouse with parental consent may have a marriage considered as legal.
- Intoxication: An annulment may be granted when there is evidence that a spouse could not consent at the time of the union due to intoxication. Nonetheless, the ground is invalid, provided the couple lived together after the inebriated spouse is sober.
- Impotence: Marriages involving an impotent spouse (someone incapable of having sexual intercourse) are valid grounds to file for an annulment. However, this becomes insufficient if the couple lived together despite knowledge of impotence.
- Fraud: Marriages can be annulled when a spouse provides false information compelling the petitioner to marry. This ground becomes insufficient if the marriage continues even though both parties are aware of the fraud.
Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In Texas?
The process of securing an annulment is similar to divorce. However, annulling a marriage is favorable in cases involving asset splitting. According to Texas Family Code § 7.001, all purchase or earnings in marriage belongs to both parties. Once a marriage is annulled, this right is automatically void. Therefore, wealthier spouses may prefer an annulment to avoid the issue of splitting their property.
What is an Uncontested Divorce in Texas?
Uncontested divorce in Texas occurs when spouses agree to major divorce-issues like child custody, support, and asset splitting. It is easier to file for an uncontested divorce than a contested divorce, which often goes to trial. Individuals can file for a divorce without legal counsel provided that all issues have been sorted with their spouse.
Where to get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Texas?
Two significant criteria necessary before filing for an uncontested divorce are grounds for divorce and residency requirements. Divorce cases in Texas can be presented on a no-fault or fault ground. Also, the plaintiff and defendant must be married in Texas or reside six months before filing the case.
Once the requirements are fulfilled, interested persons can obtain and fill the petition of divorce form. The completed form should be signed and submitted to the district clerk office located in the county where the parties reside. Essential details to include on the form are:
- Names and contacts of the couple
- Finance detail, assets, and debts
- Intended settlement plan
- Grounds for divorce
Upon submission, including payment, the clerk will stamp the form and assign a case number. Afterward, the petitioner is expected to serve the intended divorcee a copy of the petition. Serving the petition can be done personally, through the sheriff's office, or a private contractor. Once the necessary paper is served, the evidence of service should be filed at the district clerk's office.
The court clerk will set up a court hearing after the required 60 days waiting period. During this period, both parties are expected to resolve all divorce-related issues and reach a settlement agreement. The agreement should be contained in a decree of divorce form and submitted to the county clerk. The judge will review the documents, who will ask questions to confirm that all issues are resolved. To finalize the hearing, the judge signs the decree that is filed at the clerk's office. Spouses can ask for two copies of the divorce decree. However, other persons who are not legal representatives or relatives of the spouses are not allowed access to the record.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How do I get a copy of my Divorce Decree in Texas?
Obtaining a copy of divorce decree in Texas is essential for several reasons. One of those reasons is the change of name, which will affect the social security card or driver's license. The district court clerks in Texas are responsible for granting access to divorce decree in the state. The methods for obtaining the document varies from county to county. As such, it is imperative to contact the county clerk directly. While some counties grant online requests to eligible applicants, others only accept in-person and mail applications.
Important information necessary to obtain a divorce decree include:
- The names of the spouses
- The court where the divorce decree was signed
- The date of the divorce
- The court case number
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How do I get a Texas Divorce Decree Online?
Obtaining a Texas divorce decree is only available in some counties. Each county has its own unique pricing and methods for obtaining a divorce decree online. For instance, the District Clerk of Fort Bend County, provides online access to family case records. To use this online service, interested persons should include details such as:
- The type of case (Divorce decree)
- The name of the parties
- The date of divorce