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Is a No-Fault Divorce Possible?

Divorce is a complex and emotionally challenging process, especially in states like Texas where laws offer various options. With terms like ‘no-fault divorce’, ‘uncontested divorce’, and ‘fault-based divorce’ floating around, it can be overwhelming to understand what they all mean. This article aims to demystify these terms and explain the process of filing for a no-fault divorce in Texas.

In Texas, filing for a no-fault divorce is a common choice for couples seeking to end their marriage without assigning blame. Unlike fault-based divorce, where one must prove their spouse’s misconduct, no-fault divorces don’t require such evidence.

To file for a no-fault divorce, one of the spouses needs to submit a ‘Petition for Divorce’ to the court. This petition claims that the marriage has become insupportable due to conflict or discord, with no hope of reconciliation. Texas law mandates a 60-day waiting period from filing the petition before the divorce can be finalized, offering a period of reflection and possible reconciliation.

During this waiting period, it’s prudent for parties in the divorce to begin gathering the information they will need to exchange with the other side, including financial records. It’s also a good use of this time to gain understanding into the issues that need to be decided in order to finalize your divorce, including issues such as the division of assets, child custody, and support if applicable. In Texas, your family law attorney should be guiding these discussions, both with you and with the opposing party’s attorney, to explore opportunities for settlement without having to go to court. 

What Does No-Fault Divorce Mean in Texas?

A no-fault divorce in Texas means that you don’t have to prove your spouse did something wrong to get divorced. It’s an acknowledgment that sometimes marriages end without any specific fault, like cases of ‘irreconcilable differences’. This approach reflects a modern understanding of relationships and can simplify the divorce process significantly. 

However, Texas is not exclusively a no-fault state. Spouses still have the option to file for a fault-based divorce if they believe it’s necessary. Grounds for a fault-based divorce include adultery, cruelty, abandonment, and felony conviction. Proving fault requires gathering evidence, and it can impact the court’s decisions regarding asset division and spousal support.

Of course, just because parties have filed under a No-Fault, does not mean that “fault” wasn’t an issue in the break up of the marriage. It just means we don’t have to PROVE fault, which allows parties to keep their privacy and not air their dirty laundry.

What is the Difference Between a No-Fault Divorce and an Uncontested Divorce?

While often used interchangeably, no-fault and uncontested divorces are not the same. A no-fault divorce refers to the grounds upon which the divorce is filed – indicating that one or both parties are not being BLAMED for the marriage breakdown. On the other hand, an uncontested divorce describes the nature of the agreement between the spouses.

In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on major issues like child custody, asset division, and spousal support. This type of divorce typically results in a faster and less expensive process, as it avoids lengthy court battles. An uncontested divorce, often considered amicable, falls under the umbrella of no-fault divorces but represents a mutual agreement on all terms of the separation.

What is the waiting period for a no-fault divorce in Texas?

After filing your divorce petition in Texas, a mandatory 60-day waiting period is required before the court can grant the divorce. This means the earliest possible finalization of your divorce is on the 61st day post-filing.

However, it’s common for the finalization of the divorce to extend beyond 61 days, particularly for uncontested divorces.  We find on average that it takes anywhere from six to nine months to finalize a divorce. This extended time is often due to the time it takes for the parties to gather the required financial information (statements of bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts), getting assets valued (e.g., real estate or a family business interest), and the time it takes for parties to adjust to new schedules and the realities of divorce. One thing that can help minimize the length of time is to make sure that you get a date for mediation scheduled (which can take about 6 weeks), in case you are not able to reach a resolution without the help of the mediator. 

Exceptions to the Texas Divorce Waiting Period

In certain circumstances, you might be exempt from the standard Texas divorce waiting period. For instance, victims of domestic violence may request the judge to reduce the 60-day period.

Bear in mind, if your divorce is contested, involving disagreements on key issues like child custody, child support, alimony, or division of marital assets and debts, then the process will invariably exceed 60 days. The duration of contested divorces can vary widely, with many lasting over a year, especially if there are going to be hearings on issues such as temporary living arrangements, compelling discovery or motions for summary judgment..

What should you do next?

Navigating the divorce process in Texas can be daunting, but understanding the differences between no-fault and fault-based, as well as uncontested divorces, can make it more manageable. Remember, irrespective of the path chosen, it’s crucial to consider the emotional and financial implications of divorce. Consulting with a family law attorney is advisable to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process. At Hargrave Family Law, we have a team of divorce professionals who are skilled at helping our clients navigate the divorce process as efficiently and productively as possible. 

Whether you opt for a no-fault or fault-based divorce, the most important aspect is to seek a resolution that respects the well-being of all involved, especially in cases involving child custody and support. By understanding these terms and processes, Texans can approach divorce with a clearer mindset and a focus on moving forward positively. Contact Hargrave Family Law to learn more how we can help you prepare for, navigate and finalize your divorce.