In Texas, you must file an Original Petition For Divorce (OPFD) to start your lawsuit. Some states refer to it as a “Divorce Petition” others call it an “Application for Divorce” and there are many other names used for this document.  However, in Texas, the correct name of the document is “Original Petition For Divorce”.  Filing this document starts your lawsuit and simultaneously sets several things into motion. First, by filing the OPFD, you start the clock ticking toward the 61 day milestone (cooling off period) you must meet before you can get divorced. Second, you are assigned to a particular court which will oversee your case until its conclusion. Last, by filing your OPFD, you trigger the court’s case numbering system to generate a case number for your file which will be used to identify your case from that day forward.

The Original Petition For Divorce can be a couple of pages to in excess of 10 pages depending on the type of divorce that is filed. This will be influenced by whether or not your divorce is a “contested divorce” or “uncontested divorce”. For this article, I’m going to focus on an uncontested divorce.

Components of the Texas Divorce Petition

The petition is made up of several components starting at the top of the page (Style of Case), to the middle of the page (Body) and concludes with the (Prayer). After the prayer, you put the party that you are at the bottom of the petition and sign it.  By party, I mean the attorney if you’re representing the petitioner or Pro Se if you’re representing yourself. Either way, the petition concludes with the petitioner’s signature.

The body of the petition is where the facts are stated as you will need to include particular facts about your marriage. If your divorce is truly uncontested you will not need court involvement on dividing property or deciding custody and child support. On the other hand, if your divorce is a contested matter, the court will probably need to rule on certain matters if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement. Most courts will be reluctant to hear your case before you’ve gone to mediation.

Over Crowded Dockets

Because court dockets have become so crowded, more and more courts are requiring couples to attend mediation. By requiring you to attend mediation, it reduces the actual number of cases the judge has to hear and rule on. Mediation is usually scheduled for either a ½ day mediation or a whole day mediation.  Either party can nominate or suggest a mediator to hear the case. If the two of you can’t agree on a mediator, then you can have the court to provide a list of mediators to call and check their availability. The cost of the mediator will be born by both parties in equal shares.  For a half session you will probably pay about $300-$400 each. The good thing about mediation, whatever agreement you reach in mediation is binding and cannot be changed later. If you can’t reach an agreement, the court will place your case on the docket to be heard by the judge or an associate judge.

When you file your petition you need to ask for everything you want to get out of the divorce at the time you file, otherwise you will need to amend your petition. If you want something special, this is the time to plead it when you file your petition. For example, if you want to change your married name back to your maiden name, this is the time to do it. Otherwise it will cost you more money later to change your name.

After you’ve asked the court for all that you want out of the marriage, you summarize your requests in the Prayer of the petition. Essentially, you restate your request and pray the court answers your prayers by awarding you the things that you asked for in the petition.  Once you’ve done this, you sign and file your petition at the county court house. The cost to file is going to vary depending on the county you reside in, whether or not you have children under 18 years old, and whether you need service on your spouse.  On average you can expect to pay $350 – $375 depending on the variables I listed above.

Finalizing Your Divorce

At the end of the day, it’s best to keep things simple with your spouse.  If you can avoid conflict, things will go much faster and you can be divorced in as little as 61 days. By doing this, you can file an uncontested divorce and save yourselves money, time and headaches. If you don’t, you will end up fighting about stuff and spending money that will leave you lighter in the pocketbook than had you made an agreement and compromised with your spouse. For more information visit DIY Texas Divorce.