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I need a divorce. We have children under 18.

Divorce

How to get a divorce when you and your spouse have children younger than 18 (or still in high school).
Overview

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

This guide tells you about getting a divorce when you and your spouse have children who are younger than 18 (or still in high school) and there are no court orders for custody and support of your children already in place. 

Agreed, Default, and Contested Divorce
TexasLawHelp.org has instructions for uncontested divorces. Your divorce is uncontested if it can be finished by agreement or by default.

Your divorce can be finished by agreement if you and your spouse agree about all the issues (including custody, visitation and child support) and are both willing to sign the divorce forms.

Your divorce can be finished by default (without your spouse) if your spouse is served and your spouse does not file an answer or otherwise appear in court.

Your divorce is contested if your spouse files an answer or waiver of service and will not sign the Final Decree of Divorce. To finish a contested divorce, you must set your case for final hearing and give your spouse at least 45 days’ notice of the hearing. It’s important to talk with a lawyer if your case is contested.

If your divorce is contested, you may have to automatically provide your spouse with information and documents. See Required Initial Disclosures.

Note. The forms for this guide are drafted for an opposite-sex divorce. Although the steps are the same whether you have a same-sex divorce or opposite-sex divorce, the forms are slightly different.

Common questions about Divorce

You can file for divorce in Texas if you or your spouse has lived:

  • in Texas for at least the last 6 months, and
  • in the county where you file for divorce for at least the last 90 days.

See Texas Family Code Section 6.301.

Note for military families: If you are serving in the military or other government service outside of Texas you may still file for divorce in Texas if:

  • Texas has been the home state of either you or your spouse for at least 6 months and
  • the county where you plan to file the divorce has been the home county of either spouse for at least 90 days. 

The same rule applies if you accompanied your spouse who is serving in the military or other government service outside of Texas. If Texas is your home state, time spent outside of Texas with your military spouse counts as time spent in Texas.

See Texas Family Code Section 6.303.

Note for military families with children: Talk to a lawyer if you and your spouse have children together and your children have lived in another state or country for the last 6 months. A Texas court may not have jurisdiction to make orders about your children.

As long as you meet the residency requirements for divorce, you can get divorced in Texas even if your spouse lives in another state. 

Note: The court must have personal jurisdiction over your out-of-state spouse to include orders in your divorce that impose a personal obligation on your spouse — such as ordering your spouse to pay a debt or pay child support. The Original Petition for Divorce form includes a list of situations that give the Court personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state spouse. Check any that apply to your case. Talk to a lawyer if none apply or you have questions about personal jurisdiction.

A Texas Court cannot make initial custody and visitation orders about a child unless:

  • the child has lived in Texas for at least the last 6 months (or since birth) or
  • Texas was the child’s home state and the child has been gone less than 6 months.

See Texas Family Code Section 152.201.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. Talk with a lawyer if this is an issue.



Get information about being a respondent in a divorce here: My spouse filed for divorce.

When you file for divorce, you must usually pay a “filing fee.” If you need to have your spouse served, you must also pay an “issuance fee” and a “service fee.” These fees vary by county. Contact the district clerk’s office in the county where you plan to file for divorce to learn the fees.

If you don’t have enough money to pay the fees, you can ask a judge to waive the fees by completing and filing a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs. Read this short article to learn more: Court Fees & Waivers.

In almost all cases, you must wait at least 60 days before you can finish your divorce.

When counting the 60 days, find the day you filed your Original Petition for Divorce on a calendar, and then count out 60 more days (including weekends and holidays). If the 60th day falls on a weekend or holiday, go to the next business day. Note: When counting the 60 day waiting period, don’t count the day you filed your Original Petition for Divorce. Day 1 is the next day.

There are only two exceptions to the 60-day waiting period.

  1. If your spouse has been convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a crime involving family violence against you or a member of your household, the 60-day waiting period is waived.
  2. If you have an active protective order or an active magistrate’s order for emergency protection against your spouse because of family violence during your marriage, the 60-day waiting period is waived.

Note: You can always wait longer than 60 days, but your divorce cannot be finished in fewer than 60 days unless one of these exceptions applies.

If you and your spouse do not agree on child support your case is contested. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer if your case is contested.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) may also be able to help. Although the OAG cannot represent either parent, the OAG can ask a judge to make an order for child support, medical support, custody and possession.

Once there is a final court order for custody and support of your children, you can use this guide to get a divorce: I need a divorce. We have minor children. A final custody and support order is already in place.

For information about opening a case with the OAG, call 1-800-255-8014 or go to their website at www.oag.state.tx.us/cs.

Divorce can be a dangerous time. If you are concerned about your safety or the safety of your children, call the National Domestic Violence 24 Hour Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). They can refer you to help in your community.

For legal help, you can also call:

For situations involving sexual assault, you can also call:

If you are an immigrant, you can also call:

In an emergency, please call 911.

Find out more in the Protection from Violence or Abuse section of this website.

You do not have to have a lawyer to file or respond to a divorce case. However, divorce cases can be complicated and your rights as a parent, your property and your money may be at risk.

It’s a good idea to talk with a family law lawyer about your particular situation. Family law lawyers specialize in cases involving families, like divorce. A family law lawyer can explain your rights and options.

It’s really important to talk with a family law lawyer if any of the following are true.

  • You are afraid for your or your children’s safety.
  • Your case is contested.
  • Your spouse has a lawyer.
  • You or your spouse have a house, retirement, business, other valuable property or a lot of debt.
  • You need spousal maintenance (alimony).
  • You and your spouse have a child with a disability.
  • You or your spouse have an ongoing bankruptcy or are planning to file for bankruptcy.
  • You are in a same sex-marriage and you and your spouse have a child but there is no adoption or other court order stating that you are both legal parents.

If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

Instructions & Forms

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

These instructions explain the basic steps in an agreed divorce with children. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step.  

Use these instructions if:

  • you and your spouse agree about all the issues (including child custody and child support) and will both sign the necessary court forms; and
  • there are no court orders for custody and support of your children already in place (other than a family violence protective order).
  • If there is already a final court order for custody and support of your children (not including a family violence protective order), use this guide instead: I need a divorce. We have minor children. A final custody and support order is already in place.
  • If there is a family violence protective order, use the Legal Help Directory to consult with a legal professional about your options. If you were the victim of family violence, you may qualify for free legal help.

To print out both instructions and forms, click here.

Checklist Steps

It’s important to file for divorce in the correct county. If you file in the wrong county, your case will be dismissed.

You can file for divorce in the county where you live or in the county where your spouse lives as long as you or your spouse meets these residency requirements:

  • You can file for divorce in the county where you live as long as:
    • you have lived in that county for at least the last 90 days, and
    • you have lived in Texas for at least the last 6 months.
  • Or, you can file for divorce in the county where your spouse lives as long as:
    • your spouse has lived in that county for at least the last 90 days, and
    • your spouse has lived in Texas for at least the last 6 months.

If neither you nor your spouse meet the residency requirements, talk with a lawyer.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions, FAQs: Filing a Divorce with Children, for additional information.

Fill out this starting form:

You will file (turn in) the Petition at the courthouse to start your divorce case. The Petition tells the judge and your spouse that you want a divorce and states what you want the judge to order in the Final Decree of Divorce. The Frequently Asked Questions and related Articles included with these instructions will help you understand your options.

When you fill out the Petition:

  • Print your answers neatly in blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.
  • You are the “petitioner” and your spouse is the “respondent.”
  • Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need help.

Note: The Petition asks for your address. Your spouse will get a copy of the Petition. If you are concerned about your spouse knowing your address, call the Family Violence Legal Line at (800) 374-4673 for free advice.

Fill out these additional starting forms if required for your case:

Make two copies of these completed starting forms:

  • Original Petition for Divorce
  • Exhibit: Out-of-State Party Declaration (only if you or your spouse lives outside of Texas)
  • Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Courts (only if you are asking the court to waive court costs)

File (turn in) your completed Petition and other starting forms with the court. 

You need to find out if your county has standing orders. If it does, you will need to attach a copy of the standing orders to your petition. 

  • To file your forms online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions.
  • To file your divorce forms in person, take your Original Petition for Divorce and additional starting forms (and copies) to the district clerk’s office in the county you have determined is the correct county to file your divorce.

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your Petition and other starting forms (and copies).
  • Pay the filing fee (or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the fee). You can call the clerk’s office ahead of time to learn the filing fee for your case.
  • Ask the clerk if there is a local standing order that you need to follow or attach to any of your documents.
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for your divorce.
  • The clerk will write your “Cause Number” and “Court Number” at the top of the first page of your Petition. (Write these numbers at the top of any document you file in your divorce case.)
  • The clerk will file stamp your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and give you back your copies. One copy for you and one copy is for your spouse.

Has your child ever received TANF or Medicaid?

  • If NO, skip this step.
  • If YES, you must send a file-stamped copy of your Petition to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) Child Support Division (and be able to prove that you did so).
    • Send your Petition by Email - You can scan a file-stamped copy of your Petition and email it. Find the email address for the OAG child support office in the county where your case is filed here: Email Addresses for Child Support Offices. Write the cause number and the county where you filed your case in the subject line of the email. Print a copy of your email. This is your proof. Bring it with you when you go to court to finish your case.
    • Send your Petition by Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested - Or, you can mail a copy of your Petition by certified mail return receipt requested. The post office has the forms for certified mail return receipt requested. Find the mailing address for the OAG child support office in the county where your case is filed here: Mailing Addresses for Child Support Offices. The post office will give you a receipt when you mail the Petition. The OAG will sign the return receipt (often called the “green card”) and mail it back to you. This is your proof. Bring the receipt and the return receipt (green card) with you when you go to court to finish your case. 

Give your spouse:

WARNING! Do not hand-deliver any papers to your spouse if there has been violence during your relationship, especially if a judge has signed a Protective Order ordering you or your spouse to stay away from the other. You can have your spouse served instead. If you decide to have your spouse served, use these instructions instead: Instructions & Forms for a Default Divorce with Children in the checklist below this checklist. 

Ask your spouse to:

  • fill out and sign the Waiver of Service Only form, or the Respondent’s Original Answer form.

Your spouse can fill out and sign either form.

The Waiver of Service Only form must be signed in front of a notary. If your spouse plans to sign the Waiver of Service Only form, tell your spouse to sign it in front of a notary at least one day after you filed the Petition. Otherwise your spouse will have to redo it.

The Respondent’s Original Answer form does not have to be signed in front of a notary.

  • return the signed form to you or turn it in at the clerk’s office.

If your spouse returns the signed form to you, make a copy and file the original at the clerk’s office. You can file it now or when you go to court to finish your case.

Tip: If your divorce is agreed, your spouse must also sign a completed Final Decree of Divorce form. It may save you time to fill out the Final Decree of Divorce form now and send it to your spouse with the Waiver of Service or Answer form. Read Step 6 for information about filling out the Final Decree of Divorce form.

WARNING! Effective January 1, 2021, once a party to a family law case (like a divorce) files an answer, both sides will be obligated to exchange certain information and documents within 30 days. Talk to a lawyer. Otherwise, complete the Required Initial Disclosures in Divorces, Annulments, and Suits to Declare Marriage Void form. See Rule 11 Agreements for information (and forms) about one way to waive required disclosures by agreement. 

Fill out this ending form:

You will ask the judge to sign the Final Decree of Divorce form when it’s time to finish your divorce. When signed by the judge, the Final Decree of Divorce ends your marriage and makes orders about your children, property and debt. It may include other orders depending on your case.

The Final Decree of Divorce form must be completely filled out (except for the judge’s signature) before you go to court. You and your spouse may want to fill out the Final Decree of Divorce form together.

When you fill out the Final Decree of Divorce:

  • Print your answers neatly in blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.
  • You are the “petitioner” and your spouse is the “respondent.”
  • Print out and complete a Standard Possession Order form.
    • If the standard possession schedule works for your family, fill it out and attach it to the Final Decree of Divorce. If it does not work for your family or would not be safe for your children, you can hire a lawyer to write a possession order that meets the specific needs of your family. There are different standard possession orders, depending on whether your suit was filed before September 1, 2021, or after that date. Or, you may be able to use one of the possession orders included with this article: Child Visitation and Possession Orders.   
    • A Possession Order form will NOT automatically print with the Final Decree of Divorce form.

Fill out these additional ending forms if required for your case:

Note about retirement benefits: If you are dividing retirement benefits (other than an IRA), you must also complete a form called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). TexasLawHelp.org does not provide QDRO forms. You may contact the employer or retirement plan administrator to see if they have a sample QDRO form. If not, you should hire a lawyer to draft the QDRO form. If you use the employer or plan administrator’s form, you should still have a lawyer review it to make sure you are not giving up important benefits. You should have the QDRO prepared before you go to court, so the judge can sign it when you finish your divorce. Learn more here: Dividing Retirement Benefits Upon Divorce.

Also complete the Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form (also known as the "Austin" form), which must be printed on one page (front and back).

Some counties require this document to be reviewed by an attorney, while others do not.  You should speak with the district clerk's office in your county regarding local requirements.  Even if it's not required, it’s a good idea to have a family law lawyer review your completed Final Decree of Divorce form. Family law lawyers specialize in cases involving families, such as divorce cases.

You can hire a family law lawyer just to review your forms. This is called limited scope representation. You may also be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

Ask your spouse to:

  • review and sign your completed Final Decree of Divorce form, and
  • return the signed Final Decree of Divorce form to you.

Note: Make sure the Final Decree of Divorce form (including the attached possession order) is completely filled out before your spouse signs it. You CANNOT make changes to the Final Decree of Divorce once it has been signed by your spouse, unless your spouse initials each change.

Keep the signed Final Decree of Divorce form until it is time to finish your case.

In almost all cases, you must wait at least 60 days before you can finish your divorce.

When counting the 60 days, find the day you filed your Original Petition for Divorce on a calendar, and then count out 60 more days (including weekends and holidays). If the 60th day falls on a weekend or holiday, go to the next business day. Note: When counting the 60 day waiting period, don’t count the day you filed your Original Petition for Divorce. Day 1 is the next day.

There are only two exceptions to the 60-day waiting period.

  1. If your spouse has been convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a crime involving family violence against you or a member of your household, the 60-day waiting period is waived.
  2. If you have an active protective order or an active magistrate’s order for emergency protection against your spouse because of family violence during your marriage, the 60-day waiting period is waived.

Note: You can always wait longer than 60 days, but your divorce cannot be finished in fewer than 60 days unless one of these exceptions applies.

Call the clerk’s office to learn when and where the court hears uncontested cases.

If you sent a copy of your Petition to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), ask the clerk if the OAG filed anything in your case.

  • If no, you can finish your divorce without further notice to the OAG.
  • If yes, talk to a lawyer about what to do next. You can use Ask a Question to chat with a lawyer online.

Print and read through the sample testimony (found below). You must read this testimony to the judge when you go to court to finish your divorce. Make sure everything in the sample testimony is true for you. If not, talk to a lawyer. Remember, everything you say in court must be true and correct. You can be charged with a crime for lying in court.

Read the article Tips for the Courtroom for more information about going to court.

Need to finish the case WITHOUT going to the courthouse?

Some judges allow the use of an affidavit to satisfy the prove-up requirements in an agreed divorce. If you’d like to see if the judge will accept an affidavit, in place of short testimony, you should contact the court coordinator. Some judges may not accept prove-up affidavits. Additionally, some judges will only accept prove-up affidavits for divorces with no children. If you determine that the judge will accept an affidavit, you can use this form: Affidavit for Prove-Up of Agreed Divorce With Children.

This form must be sworn in front of a notary. Everything in the affidavit must be true and correct. You can be charged with a crime for lying to the court. See Texas Penal Code 37.

If you would like to appear virtually, you may need to file a motion for use of emergency procedures. Read Asking to Appear in Court by Video App or Phone During COVID-19 (Divorce With Children).

Bring these papers with you to the courthouse on the day you plan to finish your case:

  • file-stamped copy of your Original Petition for Divorce; 
  • Waiver of Service or Answer form filled out and signed by your spouse (and 1 copy);
  • Final Decree of Divorce form completely filled out and signed by both you and your spouse (make sure a completed possession order is attached);
  • Income Withholding Order for Support if child support will be ordered; 
  • Sample Testimony Divorce with Children (Set B);
  • Any additional documents needed for your specific case, such as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) signed by both you and your spouse if you are dividing a retirement account; and
  • The completed Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form (also known as the "Austin" form), printed on one sheet of paper (front and back).

When you get to the courthouse, go to the clerk’s office.

  • File the Respondent’s Original Answer or Waiver of Service Only form that was filled out and signed by your spouse. Ask the clerk to file stamp your copy. Bring your file-stamped copy with you to court.
  • Ask if you need the court file or docket sheet (list of what has been filed in your case).

When you get to the courtroom tell the clerk you are there and give the clerk your paperwork. Sit down until the judge calls your case.

When the judge calls your case, walk to the front of the courtroom and stand in front of the judge’s bench. The judge will have you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. The judge may ask you questions or may ask you to read your testimony. Have your Sample Testimony for Divorce with Children ready. The judge will listen to what you say and review your papers. If everything is in order the judge will sign your Final Decree of Divorce.

After the judge signs your Final Decree of Divorce, go back to the clerk’s office.

  • File (turn in) the Final Decree of Divorce and any other orders signed by the judge. Your divorce is NOT final until you do so.
  • Get a certified copy of your Final Decree of Divorce and any other orders signed by the judge from the clerk while you are there. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies.  
  • If your name was changed, get at least 3 certified copies of your Final Decree of Divorce to take to the agencies listed in Step 13. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies. 
  • If child support was ordered, ask the clerk how to set up a child support account.
  • File the completed Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form (also known as the "Austin" form), printed on one sheet of paper (front and back).
  • Complete and submit the Record of Support Order to the clerk's office to set up the child support account.

Send a file-stamped copy of your Final Decree of Divorce and any other orders signed by the judge to your spouse.

Follow these additional steps if they apply:

  • If you were ordered to pay child support and/or cash medical support, get additional information from the Texas Attorney General Website or by calling 1-(800) 252-8014.
  • If your ex-spouse was ordered to pay child support and/or medical support and doesn’t pay, contact the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division for help enforcing your order.
  • If your name was changed, take a certified copy of your Final Decree of Divorce to the following agencies:
    • Your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office to change your social security card.
    • Your local Department of Public Safety (DPS) office to change your driver’s license or state identification card.
    • Your County Voter Registrar to change your voter registration card. (For more information, contact the Texas Secretary of State.)
    • Contact the U.S. State Department to change your name on your passport.
  • Transfer car titles. If a vehicle (not already in your name alone) is awarded to you, give a certified copy of the Final Decree of Divorce to your county tax office and apply for title. The vehicle identification number (VIN) must be listed in your Final Decree of Divorce.
  • File deeds to transfer title to real property (house or land) at the property records office in the county where the property is located.
  • If the judge signed a QDRO dividing a retirement account, send a certified copy of the QDRO to the administrator of the retirement plan by certified mail return receipt requested. If this isn’t done, you won’t get your share of the retirement funds.
  • Revise your will, insurance policies and all financial account beneficiary designations as needed.

Forms Required

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer.

These instructions explain the steps in a default divorce with minor children. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step.  

“Default” means you have your spouse served with the initial divorce papers and your spouse does not file an answer with the court. If your spouse is served and defaults (does not file an answer with the court), you can finish your divorce without your spouse.

Use these instructions if:

  • you don’t think your spouse will participate in the divorce process, and
  • there are no court orders for custody and support of your children already in place (other than a family violence protective order).
  • If there is already a final court order for custody and support of your children (not including a family violence protective order). Use this guide instead: I need a divorce. We have minor children. A final custody and support order is already in place.
  • If there is a family violence protective order, use the Legal Help Directory to find a legal professional to speak to about your options. If you were the victim of family violence, you may qualify for free legal help.

To print out both instructions and forms, click here.

Checklist Steps

It’s important to file for divorce in the correct county. If you file in the wrong county, your case will be dismissed and you will lose your filing fee.

You can file for divorce in the county where you live or the county where your spouse lives as long as one spouse meets these residency requirements:

  • You can file for divorce in the county where you live as long as:
    • you have lived in that county for at least the last 90 days - and -
    • you have lived in Texas for at least the last 6 months.
  • Or, you can file for divorce in the county where your spouse lives as long as:
    • your spouse has lived in that county for at least the last 90 days - and -
    • your spouse has lived in Texas for at least the last 6 months.

If neither you nor your spouse meet the residency requirements, talk with a lawyer.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions, FAQs: Filing a Divorce with Children, for additional information.

Fill out this starting form:

  • Original Petition for Divorce (Set B) (called the Petition for short)
  • You will file (turn in) the Petition at the courthouse to start your divorce case. The Petition tells the judge and your spouse that you want a divorce and states what you want the judge to order in the Final Decree of Divorce. The Frequently Asked Questions and related Articles included with these instructions will help you understand your options.

When you fill out the Petition:

  • Print your answers neatly in blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.
  • You are the “petitioner” and your spouse is the “respondent.”
  • Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need help.

Note: The Petition asks for your address. Your spouse will get a copy of the Petition. If you are concerned about your spouse knowing your address, call the Family Violence Legal Line at (800) 374-4673 for free advice.

Fill out these additional starting forms if required for your case:

Make two copies of these completed starting forms:

  • Original Petition for Divorce
  • Exhibit: Out-of-State Party Declaration (only if you or your spouse lives outside of Texas)
  • Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Courts (only if you are asking the court to waive court costs)

File (turn in) your completed Petition and other starting forms with the court.

You need to find out if your county has standing orders. If it does, you will need to attach a copy of the standing orders to your petition. 

  • To file your forms online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions.
  • To file your divorce forms in person, take the Petition and additional starting forms (and copies) to the district clerk’s office in the county you have determined is the correct county to file your divorce.  

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your Petition and other starting forms (and copies).
  • Tell the clerk you want to have your spouse served in person. This means a sheriff, constable or private process server will deliver the initial divorce papers to your spouse in person.

    (Note: If your spouse will agree to sign the necessary court forms, you do not need to have your spouse served. Follow these instructions instead: Instructions & Forms for an AGREED Divorce with Children (the Agreed Divorce with Children materials are in the instructions & forms set that appears right above this checklist.).
  • Pay the filing fee (or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the fee). You can call the clerk’s office ahead of time to learn the filing fee for your case.
  • Ask the clerk if there is a local standing order that you need to follow or attach to any of your documents
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for your divorce.
  • The clerk will write your “Cause Number” and “Court Number” at the top of the first page of your Petition. (Write these numbers at the top of any document you file in your divorce case.)
  • The clerk will “file-stamp” your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and return your copies.
  • The clerk will print a form called a “citation.” The citation tells your spouse that you have filed for divorce. The citation also tells your spouse that unless he or she files an answer with the court you will be able to finish your divorce by default (without your spouse). The clerk will attach the other copy of your Petition to the citation. The citation and Petition are the “initial divorce papers” that must be served on your spouse by a constable, sheriff or private process server. Read Step 4 for instructions.

It is your responsibility to have your spouse served with the initial divorce papers by a constable, sheriff or private process server. You cannot serve the initial divorce papers yourself.

To have your spouse served in person:

  • send the initial court papers to a constable, sheriff or private process server in the county where your spouse lives or works;
  • include the service fee (call first to learn the fee) or a file-stamped copy of your Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs; and
  • a self-addressed and stamped envelope.

The constable, sheriff or private process server will:

  • give the initial divorce papers to your spouse,
  • complete a Return of Service form that says when and where your spouse was served,
  • send the completed Return of Service to you or the court.

The completed Return of Service is proof your spouse was served. Your spouse will NOT have to sign anything.

If the Return of Service is sent to you, file it at the clerk’s office. The Return of Service must be on file for at least 10 days before you can finish your case, not counting the day it is filed or the day you go to court to finish your case.

NOTE: If you have trouble getting your spouse served, read this article: How to Serve the Initial Divorce Papers. If you have questions, you can use Ask a Question to chat with a lawyer or law student online.

Has your child ever received TANF or Medicaid?

  • If NO, skip this step.
  • If YES, you must send a file-stamped copy of your Petition to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) Child Support Division (and be able to prove that you did so).
    • Send your Petition by Email – You can scan a file-stamped copy of your Petition and email it. Find the email address for the OAG child support office in the county where your case is filed here: Email Addresses for Child Support Offices. Write the cause number and the county where you filed your case in the subject line of the email. Print a copy of your email. This is your proof. Bring it with you when you go to court to finish your case.
    • Send your Petition by Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested – Or, you can mail a copy of your Petition by certified mail return receipt requested. The post office has the forms for certified mail return receipt requested. Find the mailing address for the OAG child support office in the county where your case is filed here: Mailing Addresses for Child Support Offices. The post office will give you a receipt when you mail the Petition. The OAG will sign the return receipt (often called the “green card”) and mail it back to you. This is your proof. Bring the receipt and the return receipt (green card) with you when you go to court to finish your case.

Fill out this Final Decree of Divorce form:

You will ask the judge to sign the Final Decree of Divorce form when it’s time to finish your divorce. When signed by the judge, the Final Decree of Divorce ends your marriage and makes orders about your children, property and debt. It may include other orders depending on your case.

The Final Decree of Divorce form must be completely filled out (except for the judge’s signature) before you go to court. You and your spouse may want to fill out the Final Decree of Divorce form together.

When you fill out the Final Decree of Divorce:

  • Print your answers neatly in blue or black ink. Do not leave blanks.
  • You are the petitioner and your spouse is the respondent.
  • Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need help.

Print out and complete a Standard Possession Order form.

  • If the standard possession schedule works for your family, fill it out and attach it to the Final Decree of Divorce. There are different standard possession orders, depending on whether your suit was filed before September 1, 2021, or after that date. If it does not work for your family or would not be safe for your children, you can hire a lawyer to write a possession order that meets the specific needs of your family. Or, you may be able to use one of the sample possession orders included with this article: Child Visitation & Possession Orders.

Fill out this additional ending form if required for your case:

Note about retirement benefits: If you are dividing retirement benefits (other than an IRA), you must also complete a form called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). TexasLawHelp.org does not provide QDRO forms. You may contact the employer or retirement plan administrator to see if they have a sample QDRO form. If not, you should hire a lawyer to draft the QDRO form. If you use the employer or plan administrator’s form, you should still have a lawyer review it to make sure you are not giving up important benefits. You should have the QDRO prepared before you go to court, so the judge can sign it when you finish your divorce. Learn more here: Dividing Retirement Benefits Upon Divorce.

Also complete the Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form (also known as the "Austin" form), which must be printed on one page (front and back).

Some counties require this document to be reviewed by an attorney, while others do not.  You should speak with the district clerk's office in your county regarding local requirements.  Even if it's not required, it’s a good idea to have a family law lawyer review your completed Final Decree of Divorce form. Family law lawyers specialize in cases involving families, such as divorce cases.

You can hire a family law lawyer just to review your forms. This is called “limited scope representation.” You may also be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

Wait the waiting periods that apply to your case.

  • 60-day waiting period – In almost all cases, you must wait at least 60 days before you can finish your divorce.

When counting the 60 days, find the day you filed your Original Petition for Divorce on a calendar, and then count out 60 more days (including weekends and holidays). If the 60th day falls on a weekend or holiday, go to the next business day. Note: When counting the 60 day waiting period, don’t count the day you filed your Original Petition for Divorce. Day 1 is the next day.

There are only two exceptions to the 60-day waiting period.

  1. If your spouse has been convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a crime involving family violence against you or a member of your household, the 60-day waiting period is waived.
  2. If you have an active protective order or an active magistrate’s order for emergency protection against your spouse because of family violence during your marriage, the 60-day waiting period is waived.

Note: You can always wait longer than 60 days, but your divorce cannot be finished in fewer than 60 days unless one of these exceptions applies.

  • 20 + day waiting period – From the day your spouse is served, your spouse must have at least 20 days plus the next Monday at 10:00 a.m. to file an Answer. Find the day your spouse was served on a calendar, count out 20 more days (including weekends), then go to the next Monday. Your spouse must have until this date to file an answer. If your spouse does not file an answer by this date (and all other requirements have been met) you can finish your case by default without your spouse. Note: Your spouse can file an answer until you finish your divorce case, even if the 20 + day waiting period has passed.  
  • 10 + day waiting period – The constable, sheriff, or private process server should have completed a Return of Service form stating when your spouse was served. The Return of Service form must be on file with the court for at least 10 days before you can finish your case. Important: When counting the 10 day waiting period, do not count the day the Return of Service is filed with the court and do not count the day you go to court to finish your case.

Call the clerk’s office to find out if your spouse filed an answer.

If your spouse filed an answer, you CANNOT finish your divorce by default.

  • If your spouse filed an answer and will now agree to sign your completed Final Decree of Divorce, you can finish your case by agreement.
  • If your spouse filed an answer and will not agree to sign your completed Final Decree of Divorce, your case is contested. To finish a contested divorce, you must set a contested final hearing. You must give your spouse at least 45 days’ notice of the final hearing. Read this article to learn more: How to Set a Contested Final Hearing (Family Law). Remember: It’s always best to have a lawyer if your case is contested.

If your spouse did NOT file an answer, you CAN finish your divorce by default as long as:

  • your spouse was successfully served by a constable, sheriff or private process server; and
  • a Return of Service form (stating when and where your spouse was served) has been on file with the clerk’s office for at least 10 days (not counting the day it was filed or the day you go to court); and
  • the 20 + day waiting period for your spouse to file an answer has passed; and  
  • the 60-day waiting period has passed; and
  • your spouse has not filed an answer and does not file an answer before you finish your divorce. (Remember, your spouse can file an answer until you finish your divorce, even if the 20 + day waiting period has passed.)

If you CAN finish your divorce by default, fill out these additional forms and make one copy of each form:

Call the clerk’s office to learn when and where the court hears uncontested divorce cases.

If you sent a copy of your Petition to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), ask the clerk if the OAG filed anything in your case.

  • If no, you can finish your divorce without further notice to the OAG.
  • If yes, talk to a lawyer about what to do next. You can use Ask a Question to chat with a lawyer online.

Print and read through the sample testimony (found below). You must read this testimony to the judge when you go to court to finish your divorce. Make sure everything in the sample testimony is true for you. If not, talk to a lawyer. Remember, everything you say in court must be true and correct. You can be charged with a crime for lying in court.

You may also be able to complete and file a Default Divorce with Children Prove-Up Affidavit. Ask the court coordinator if the judges in that county are accepting them. An affidavit is a statement that you sign in front of a notary, under oath.

Read the article Tips for the Courtroom for more information about going to court. 

If you would like to appear virtually, you may need to file a motion for use of emergency procedures. Read Asking to Appear in Court by Video App or Phone During COVID-19 (Divorce With Children).

Bring the following with you to the courthouse on the day you plan to finish your divorce.

  • file-stamped copy of your Original Petition for Divorce;
  • file-stamped copy of the Return of Service form showing when and where your spouse was served;
  • the Final Decree of Divorce form completely filled out and signed by you (make sure a completed possession order is attached);
  • Income Withholding Order for Support if child support will be ordered;
  • Certificate of Last Known Mailing Address form and 1 copy;
  • Military Status Declaration (or Military Status Affidavit for Harris County) and 1 copy;
  • Sample Testimony for Divorce with Children (Set B);
  • Any additional documents needed for your specific case, such as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) if you are dividing a retirement account.
  • The completed Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form (also known as the "Austin" form), which must be printed on one sheet of paper (front and back).

When you get to the courthouse, go to the clerk’s office.

  • Ask the clerk if you need the court file or docket sheet (list of what has been filed in your case).
  • Ask the clerk to check one more time to see if your spouse has filed an answer. If your spouse has filed an answer, you will not be able to finish your case by default. Go back to Step 9.
  • File the Certificate of Last Known Mailing Address and the Military Status Declaration (or Military Status Affidavit). Ask the clerk to file stamp your copy of each form. Bring a file-stamped copy of each form with you to court.

When you get to the courtroom tell the clerk you are there and give the clerk your paperwork. Sit down until the judge calls your case.

When the judge calls your case, walk to the front of the courtroom and stand in front of the judge’s bench. The judge will have you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. The judge may ask you questions or may ask you to read your testimony. Have your sample testimony ready. The judge will listen to what you say and review your papers. If everything is in order the judge will sign your Final Decree of Divorce.

After the judge signs your Final Decree of Divorce, go back to the clerk’s office.

  • File (turn in) the Final Decree of Divorce and any other orders signed by the judge. Your divorce is NOT final until you do so.
  • File the completed Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form (also known as the "Austin" form), which must be printed on one sheet of paper (front and back).
  • Get a certified copy of your Final Decree of Divorce and any other orders signed by the judge from the clerk while you are there. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies. 
  • If your name was changed, get at least 3 certified copies of your Final Decree of Divorce to take to the agencies listed in Step 13. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies. 
  • If child support was ordered, ask the clerk how to set up a child support account.
  • Complete and submit the Record of Support Order to the clerk's office to set up the child support account.

Send a file-stamped copy of your Final Decree of Divorce and any other orders signed by the judge to your spouse.

Follow these additional steps if they apply:

  • If you were ordered to pay child support and/or cash medical support and have questions about where to send your payment, you can get information from the Texas Attorney General Website or by calling (800) 252-8014.
  • If your ex-spouse was ordered to pay child support and/or medical support and doesn’t pay, you can contact the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division for help enforcing your order.
  • If your name was changed, take a certified copy of your Final Decree of Divorce to the following agencies:
    • Your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office to change your social security card.
    • Your local Department of Public Safety (DPS) office to change your driver’s license or state identification card.
    • Your County Voter Registrar to change your voter registration card. (For more information, contact the Texas Secretary of State.)
    • Contact the U.S. State Department to change your name on your passport.
  • Transfer car titles. If a vehicle (not already in your name alone) is awarded to you, give a certified copy of the Final Decree of Divorce to your county tax office and apply for title. The vehicle identification number (VIN) must be listed in your divorce decree.
  • File deeds to transfer title to real property (house or land) at the property records office in the county where the property is located.
  • If the judge signed a QDRO dividing a retirement account, send a certified copy of the QDRO to the administrator of the retirement plan by certified mail return receipt requested. If this isn’t done, you won’t get your share of the retirement funds.
  • Revise your will, insurance policies and all financial account beneficiary designations as needed.

Forms Required

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