Getting Divorced in Texas

Let's imagine a married couple named Harold and Julie have now been married for 13 years. During their second year of marriage, they had twins: a boy and a girl. They also purchased a home in the suburbs of Dallas. Harold is a network engineer for Cisco who works a lot of hours. Although he is tired after work, he takes pride in being able to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his family. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his children, traveling and watching "Game of Thrones".

Julie is a district manager for a major retail chain. She loves trying new things out. Julie drops the children off at school and assists them with their homework in the evening. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her family, especially her children.

Unfortunately, the last several years of their marriage has been nothing short of miserable for the couple. They argued consistently over finances. During the last three months, Harold became increasingly disengaged, since nothing he says or does helps and seems to make things worse.

The couple attended marriage counseling to try to salvage the marriage because they fearedwhat a divorce would mean for their children. The marriage counseling did not work and now they have made the decision to divorce. How can Harold and Julie go about getting a divorce in Texas?.

Where Should You File For Divorce?

Now that Harold and Julie have decided to divorce, they need to decide where to file one. Assuming they've been in Texas at least 6 months, they must file for divorce in the County where they have resided for the three months prior to filing for divorce.

Specifically, the Texas Family Code section 6.301 says:

A suit for divorce may not be maintained in The State of Texas unless at the time the suit is filed either the petitioner or the respondent has been:

  1. A domiciliary of this state for the preceding six-month period; and,
  2. A resident of the county in which the suit is filed for the preceding 90-day period.”[1]

So what does all this mean? Harold and Julie can file for divorce in Texas, but at least one of them must reside in a Texas county for ninety days. Let's say for example that Harold and Julie live in Collin County, Texas for the past 3 years. So, Collin County would be the proper place to file for divorce.

Texas courts have ruled that: "Residency must be established as of the date the suit for divorce is filed; it is not enough that ninety days of residency will pass during the pendency of the divorce proceeding." In re Milton, 420 S.W.3d at 252 (citing In re Rowe, 182 S.W.3d 424, 426 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2005, orig. proceeding)). "The public policy behind these requirements is to prevent forum shopping by divorce litigants." Id. (citing Reynolds, 86 S.W.3d at 277). In re Paul, No. 10-16-00004-CV, 2016 Tex. App. LEXIS 4766, at *6 (App. May 5, 2016).

Should You Request a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)?

Let's add some facts to Harold and Julie's situation. Let's say that right after they filed for divorce Harold starting selling off the stocks they had bought as investments, and moving the money to a new account of his that he opened. Julie didn't agree to this and is not getting any of the money. What should Julie do? One option is for Julie to request a Temporary Restraining Order from the Court. A "Restraining Order" prevents someone from doing something. This one would be temporary, only lasting a few weeks, since that is all that Courts will do at this early stage.

A Temporary Restraining Order may be filed at the same time that a divorce petition is filed, or afterwards. Julie should request a Temporary Restraining Order. Parties who choose to divorce should discuss the option of a restraining order with their attorney.

Pursuant to the Texas Family Code section 6.501, a restraining order may be rfor the preservation of the property of spouses as well as for the protection of the parties as necessary, including an order prohibiting one or both parties from engaging in activities such as:

  • Threatening a person or the other party in any manner; or
  • Placing a telephone call, anonymously at an unreasonable hour; or
  • Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to the other party; or
  • Taking any action to terminate or limit or charge credit cards in the name of the other party.

There are other activities that may be restricted by a temporary restraining order. You should speak with an attorney to determine if your needs correlate to the statutorily named activities in the Texas Family Code.

Q: Can I Get Divorced in Texas If My Spouse Lives Out of State?"

A: The general answer is yes.

According to the Texas Family Code, if the person seeking a divorce is a resident of Texas at the time the divorce is filed, then the court may exercise personal jurisdiction over the spouse that lives out of state if:

  1. this state is the last marital residence of the petitioner and the respondent and the suit is filed before the second anniversary of the date on which marital residence ended; or
  2. there is any basis consistent with the constitutions of this state and the United States for the exercise of the personal jurisdiction.

A court acquiring jurisdiction under this section also acquires jurisdiction over the out of state spouse in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.

So what does all of this mean? Let's change Harold's and Julie's situation again. Let's say that prior to them filing for divorce, they were separated for an entire year. Julie lived in Texas and Harold lived in Louisiana. Can Julie file for divorce in Texas? Yes. Julie can file for divorce in Texas because she and Harold were married in Texas and the suit was filed before the second anniversary of the date on which marital residence ended.

Summary

A suit for divorce may be filed in Texas if either party has been a domiciliary of this state for the preceding six-month period and a resident of the county in which the suit is filed for the preceding 90-day period. Also, a Texas resident can file for divorce against an out of state resident in Texas. A Temporary Restraining Order can be obtained in both cases.

Citations

[1] Texas Family Code Section 6.301