Texas Court Records
How to File For Divorce in Texas
In Texas, divorce or marriage dissolution is the legal termination of a marriage by a Family court before the death of either spouse. The court grants a divorce under Chapters 6 – 9, Family Code of Texas Constitution. Specific state and local custodians create, maintain, and disseminate divorce records in Texas. Additionally, publicly-available divorce records are accessible on third party sites like CourtRecords.us.
While the length of time it takes to finalize a divorce varies, a typical divorce in Texas takes a minimum of 60 days from the date of filing to the date the court concludes the divorce and issues a decree. However, most divorces in Texas take six months or longer, depending on the complexity of the marital issues and the degree of conflict.
According to data from the United States Census Bureau, in 2018, the divorce rate in Texas was 8.4 per 1000 residents as against a national rate of 7.7 per 1000. While the state ranked 20th for most divorces as of 2018, Texas ranked 10th for most divorces in 2008.
Do I need a Reason for Divorce in Texas?
Yes. Generally, intending divorcees can petition the court for divorce on a fault or no-fault basis. Intending divorcees can petition the court for a fault-based divorce to avoid a court-mandated mediation or petition the court for a favorable ruling on child custody, child support, alimony, and division of assets. On the other hand, intending divorcees petition the court for a no-fault divorce if they do not blame the other spouse for the dissolution.
Subtitle C, Chapter 6 of the Family Code, gives the court power to grant a divorce on seven (7) grounds.
- Insupportability: The court may grant a divorce petition on this ground if the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation. Insupportability is a no-fault based divorce.
- Cruelty: The court may grant a divorce petition on this ground if a spouse is guilty of cruel treatment of a spouse in a manner deemed unfavorable for further living together. Cruelty is a fault-based divorce.
- Adultery: The court may grant a divorce petition on this ground if a spouse is guilty of adultery. Adultery is a fault-based divorce.
- Conviction of Felony: Regardless of a state or federal felony conviction, the court may grant a divorce petition on this ground if a spouse was convicted of a felony; imprisoned for at least one year; has not been pardoned. However, if the state's case against the convicted felon was based on spousal testimony, the court cannot grant a divorce on this ground.
- Abandonment: The court may grant a divorce petitioned on this ground if a spouse intentionally left the complaining spouse and remained away for at least one year.
- Living Apart: The court may grant a divorce petition on this ground if either spouse has lived apart, without cohabitation, for at least three years.
- Confinement in Mental Hospital: The court may grant a divorce petition on this ground if, at the time of filing, the other spouse is confined in a state or private mental hospital, as defined in Section 571.003, Health and Safety Code, for at least three years. The petitioner must also prove that the mental disorder is of a degree and nature that normalcy is unlikely, or there is a risk of relapse.
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 constitutes insufficient grounds for Divorce in Texas?
The state has a residency requirement for all divorces. Under Subtitle C, Chapter 6 of the Family Code, the court cannot grant a petition for divorce if either the petitioner or the respondent:
- Has not resided in Texas for at least six months
- Has not lived in the county where the suit was filed for at least 90 days before filing the lawsuit
- Both parties were not married in Texas
Why do I need a Divorce Lawyer?
Generally, an intending divorcee must have sufficient information before filing for divorce. Nevertheless, they must also employ a divorce attorney's services to navigate the nuances of the legal process, find more information, and file documents effectively. Thus, intending divorcees must interview and choose a lawyer who will best achieve their goals.
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 Started in a Divorce in Texas?
To get started in a divorce in Texas, follow these steps:
- Filing: The intending divorcee must file an original petition for divorce with the district court.
- Service of filings: The petitioner must serve the divorce papers to the other spouse (Respondent).
- Discovery: In this stage, both spouses request and exchange information and documents to support their case.
- Discussion of Settlement: In this stage, both spouses discuss the out-of-court settlement of the case, either directly or with the help of attorneys. If both parties agree on a mutual understanding, their attorneys will prepare and file a Decree of Divorce containing the terms of the settlement with the court.
- Mediation: If both parties fail to agree, most Texas courts require mediation. Intending divorcees negotiate and settle all terms of their conflict with the aid of a neutral third party (the mediator).
- Trial: A divorce case goes to trial only if settlement and mediation fail. During the trial, both parties present their grievances and demands before a judge will rule.
- File the Final Decree: After the trial, the attorneys will prepare and file a Final Decree of Divorce at the district clerk's office. The final decree contains all of the court's rulings and resolutions to the issues pertaining to the divorce.
How to File for Divorce in Texas without a Lawyer
Intending divorcees can file for divorce without a lawyer if it is an uncontested divorce. The intending divorcees must not have children who are minors, and they must agree on all terms regarding items such as the division of marital property and spousal support.
The Texas Judicial Branch provides systematic instructions and forms for spouses who wish to file an uncontested divorce. Generally, intending divorcees can file for divorce with a lawyer if they meet the following criteria:
- Agree on the "grounds" (reason) for the divorce
- Agree to dissolve the marriage
- No ongoing bankruptcy case
- No minor children involved
- Do not own property together
- Do not have retirement benefits to divide
- Intending divorcees are not seeking alimony
How Does Texas Divorce Mediation Work
Most counties in Texas mandate that intending divorcees go through mediation before the case proceeds to trial. Mediation is a confidential process where a neutral third party known as the mediator, helps intending divorcees arrive at a mutually satisfactory settlement. A mediator is not a judge, arbitrator, or counselor. The mediator's sole purpose is to assist the intending divorces in reaching a voluntary agreement under Rule 11 Agreement of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. All mediators in Texas must complete training in Alternate Dispute Resolution and comply with ethical guidelines laid out by the State Bar of Texas.
How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in Texas?
Generally, the length of mediation depends on the complexity of the issues involved. Such topics include but are not limited to child support, custody, visitation, alimony, and property division. Thus, mediations may last for several weeks or months. However, if mediation fails, the divorce case proceeds to trial, which may last for several months.
Are Divorce Records Public in Texas?
Upon finalization, Texas divorce records are public records. However, divorce records that contain sensitive information such as details of any financial agreements, bank statements, and account numbers are not available to the public. The court may also redact identifying information pertaining to domestic violence victims. Likewise, divorcees may petition the court to seal records on the divorce.
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 Texas Divorce Records?
Divorcees and interested members of the public may obtain these records from the specific local or state custodian in person, by mail or online.
Local/County Divorce Records: The office of the district court clerk, in the county where the divorce was filed and granted, maintains and disseminates Texas divorce records. To obtain certified divorce records, the requester must visit the clerk's office in person during business hours. The clerk's office will provide an estimate for associated costs. Also, the requester must provide the information needed to facilitate the search. This information includes:
- The full name of the parties involved
- The date of filing
- Date of finalization
- The case number of the divorce record
State Divorce Records: The Vital Statistics office of the Texas State Department of Health maintains a public database of divorces granted since 1968. The office only provides divorce verification letters to requesters. Direct requests to:
Texas Vital Statistics
Department of State Health Services
P.O. Box 12040
Austin, TX 78711-2040