How Easy is it to Get an Agreed Divorce in Texas?

How Easy is it to Get a Divorce in Texas if Both Parties are in Agreement?

Sometimes people come to me wanting to get a divorce where they think they are already agreed. Couples don’t necessarily know the consequences of their agreements and how they could affect their futures. Here are some issues you should consider when you are seeking an agreed divorce.

Problem 1: Do you have Children?

If there are children involved, who is going to have primary custody, what is going to be the visitation schedule, who is going to make decisions regarding the children’s physical and mental health, education, and religious upbringing? Have you truly thought through what could lead to disagreements in these areas and how they will be resolved? Once the other parent gets a boyfriend or girlfriend, attitudes in these areas are likely to change.

What is child support going to be? Do you have proof of income to determine the amount based on your state’s guidelines? Is the obligor going to pay guidelines child support? Is the reason the obligor paying under guidelines because it is honestly in the best interest of the child, or is it in the best interest of the obligor?

Have you come into an agreement on all of these issues because you are putting the convenience of an agreement above the best interest of the children? How can you be sure? Have you had a neutral third party evaluate and confirm that your decisions are in the best interest of the children?

Problem 2: Do you have a home or other assets?

Will the parties sell the home or let one keep it? If one party is going to keep it, are both going to stay on the mortgage and title? How are you going to ensure that the party out of possession’s credit and interest in avoiding waste are protected? Have you talked to a divorce lender about an equity buy-out? For example, you should know how to pre-qualify and what language needs to go into the divorce decree to protect everyone’s interests.

Do you have any other assets? Do you have bank accounts, brokerage accounts, bonds, life insurance, or any other financial assets? Are you sure know about all of the financial assets of both spouses? What if you find out later divorce that an asset has not been disclosed?

Do you have any retirement accounts? Have you accounted for the value of your retirement assets? Is there enough other property to divide with enough value to avoid splitting the retirement accounts? If not, do you have language for the decree and QDROs to ensure that the division complies with ERISA and the specific requirements of the plan administrators?

Problem 3: Do you have any personal property, collectibles, motor vehicles, etc.?

Have you created sworn inventories of all of the property and how much it is worth? Are you in agreement over how much everything is worth? Have divided the property evenly and added up all of the agreed values to determine if it is a fair division. Are you sure all property has been accounted for?

Is there any separate property? Has one party used community funds to improve or maintain separate property? Are there community assets that one party has used separate property funds towards the purchase, improvement or maintenance of? Does it matter?

Problem 4: Do you have any debts?

Does either party have any debts that the other will still be liable for after the divorce is finalized? Have you talked to a credit management expert to make sure your credit is protected during and after your divorce?

What are you going to do about tax liability? Who was responsible for filing tax returns during the marriage? What if they were under or over-paid? Will the IRS be coming after you if your spouse took deductions that are later disqualified?

Problem 5: How will you live after your divorce?

Have you talked to a financial planner to determine how to reach your financial goals after divorce? Is it better to take a big cash payout, an interest in the retirement account, or spousal maintenance secured with a lien? Do you want to go back to school, save for your children’s college, or retire? Do you know how exactly how you can accomplish any of the things you want?

Divorce is extremely traumatic.

Agreement doesn’t make the divorce less traumatic, it just reallocates the trauma–either in a way that either one party bears the brunt of it or in a way that is fair. Getting an agreed divorce that works best for you and your goals is extremely difficult unless you have no children and no community property.

You are getting a divorce for some reason. You are going to have competing interests with the person you are divorcing. It can be extremely easy for one side in an agreed divorce if the other side rolls over. That doesn’t reduce the difficulty it only pushes it all onto the loser. A fair divorce is hard, but very doable by agreement.

If you get along well enough to work out an agreed divorce, consider deciding not to get divorced. Sometimes you can’t avoid it because of abuse, infidelity, or other serious issues. However, if it’s a difficult decision, decide not to. Once you make a decision, your subconscious can start working on ways to make things work.

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What are the ten steps of a divorce in Texas?

What are the ten steps of a divorce in Texas?

1. The Decision.

First, you must decide whether you need a divorce. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. You think that a divorce will solve some problem that you have. If your spouse is abusive or cheating on you, then divorce is likely to be the better option in dealing with it. But if the problems are financial, emotional, or something else, you may have better ways to solve your problem. Even if you think you have “tried everything,” chances are you haven’t tried anything half as emotionally and financially draining as a divorce.

2. Preparation.

How are you going to survive for the first seven years after your divorce? You may not have thought that far ahead. Do you have a budget and a plan for how you are going to meet your needs post-divorce? How are you going to pay child support, rent, insurance, and all the other expenses in a divided household? Do you want to try Collaborative Law? Who are you going to hire to be your attorney? How are you going to pay attorney fees? Where will you live while the divorce is pending?

3. The Petition.

The first legal step in a divorce is to file the Original Petition for Divorce and paying the filing fee. The petition states the grounds for the divorce and the relief that the petitioner is requesting from the court.

4. Service of Citation.

After the petition is filed, it along with a citation must be served on the respondent. The citation is a document prepared by the clerk under the seal of the court that has information that the respondent needs to know in order to respond to the divorce suit. The citation and petition must be served on the respondent by a sheriff, constable, or licensed process server. The respondent can sign a waiver of service of the citation to avoid this expense.

5. The Answer.

The respondent has until the Monday following twenty days of receipt of citation to file an answer. The answer can contain a general denial, denials of specific allegations, and counterclaims. A typical answer contains a general denial and a request for attorney fees.

6. The Counter-petition.

Counter-petitions are optional. A counter-petition is a petition filed by the respondent of the original petition. Counter-petitions are filed when the respondent has claims to make against the petitioner. They can also be filed to keep the suit alive in case the petitioner dismisses his own case.

7. Temporary Orders.

Temporary orders are also optional. Parties request them to preserve assets while the divorce is pending, or to make orders regarding the children until the divorce is final. They may include a temporary restraining order or temporary injunction to make sure the parties behave themselves during the divorce process and may include an order to mediate. Temporary orders can be agreed, or a judge can decide on temporary orders after a hearing.

8. Discovery.

The discovery process is where the parties exchange information necessary to determine what will go into the final order. Discovery can start as soon as the divorce is filed and can be informal or formal. Informal discovery consists of requests between the parties or between their attorneys for information that they think they will need to finalize the divorce. It is usually cheaper than formal discovery. In formal discovery, the parties serve each other requests to produce documents, disclose certain information about the lawsuit, answer interrogatories, answer depositions, and make admissions or denials. Third parties can also be subpoenaed and deposed during the discovery process.

9. The Final Trial.

Almost every divorce ends in a final trial. If the divorce is agreed, only the petitioner typically shows up for the trial, gives evidence, and asks the judge to sign the order. Some courts allow the petitioner to file an affidavit with the final order so that no one must go to court and there is no trial. If the parties can’t agree on the terms for the final order, then either the judge or a jury will decide after a contested hearing.

10. Motion to Enter.

Unfortunately, even after the final trial is held and the judge or jury rules, sometimes parties still can’t agree on language for the final order. When that happens, the parties must appear before the judge at least one more time to have the judge rule on the language and sign the order.

Recommended Reading:

  1. Richard Ades Warshak. (2010). Divorce poison : how to protect your family from bad-mouthing and brainwashing. Harper.
  2. Eddy, W. A., Burns, A., & Chafin, K. (2020). BIFF for coparent communication : your guide to difficult texts, emails and social media posts. Unhooked Books, An Imprint Of High Conflict Institute Press.
  3. Kiyosaki, R. T. (2017). Rich Dad Poor Dad : With Updates For Today’s World–And 9 New Study Session Sections. Plata Publishing.

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