When it comes to marriage, it’s not over until it’s over. Or… until you have the Final Decree of Divorce in hand.
The Texas Final Decree of Divorce is the court’s formal order granting a termination of your marriage. If your case has gone to trial and the judge has issued a judgment, this judgement is confirmed when the decree is signed and dated by the judge and court clerk. However the Court’s endorsement of the Final Decree actually represents the last stage in a series of steps that make up the typical Texas divorce.
The first step is typically when one spouse obtains an Original Petition for Divorce. After filling and making two copies (one for you and one for your spouse), the Clerk will stamp your paperwork and assign a case number and a judicial district. A copy then needs to be delivered to your spouse either in person or by certified mail for legal notice of your divorce filing. After serving an original petition you will receive a Return of Service that must be filed with the District Clerk’s office.
Your spouse may respond to the Original Petition in one of two ways – ideally by signing a Waiver of Citation, which means that they waive all of their legal rights in the case and agree to the divorce and all related issues. Alternately, they may file an Answer to Divorce that lets the court know they are actively participating in the case and do not want to waive their legal rights. They may then file a Counter Petition that lays out their own claims against the individual filing for divorce.
In the case of a contested divorce, you and your spouse will most likely either have to seek legal counsel or go to a divorce mediator to arrive at some kind of an agreement. It typically takes about six months to one year or longer to finalize a divorce, depending on the degree of conflict between you and your spouse.
In the case of an uncontested divorce, when you have somehow managed to agree on terms including the issues of how to divide property and debts, the terms of spousal support, and the division of responsibilities regarding child custody, visitation, and support, you can fill out your own Final Decree for signature by the judge during your hearing. If you fill the form in yourself, make sure you use the correct one – Texas Final Decree of Divorce no Children, or the Texas Final Decree of Divorce with Children.
One thing to keep in mind is that even if you haven’t retained a lawyer, you might consider having your paperwork reviewed by one to make sure everything has been filled out correctly. If your divorce can’t be finalized soon enough, get started filling out your Final Decree of Divorce with PDFfiller now. For more on representing yourself in divorce, please see the Pro Se Divorce Handbook from the Texas Young Lawyers Association and the Texas State Bar. And in the meantime, we wish you a very easy and speedy resolution!
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