Texas petitioners may act as their own representatives (known as "pro se") in a divorce. Filing a pro se divorce may save time and money, but the Fort Bend County District Court recommends consulting an attorney when couples cannot reach an amicable agreement or the nonpetitioning spouse has hired an attorney. Once the decision to divorce becomes a reality, there are a number of steps to follow from the beginning to completion. The petitioning spouse must complete and file the necessary documents.
Meet Texas residency requirements. Texas has state and county residency requirements. One or both of the spouses must reside in Texas for six months prior to the filing of the divorce petition. The petitioner must file the petition in the county where either the petitioner or respondent has lived for at least 90 days.
List the legal grounds for divorce. Texas has seven grounds for divorce, of which only one does not assign blame. Insupportability states that the marriage is irretrievably broken with no hope of reconciliation. This is the only no-fault grounds for divorce. Cruelty refers to intolerable treatment that makes continued cohabitation impossible. Texas allows divorce if the nonpetitioning spouse was convicted of a felony that led to incarceration of more than a year without pardon. Texas courts will not accept conviction of a felony as grounds if the petitioning spouse's testimony led to the conviction and incarceration. Other grounds include adultery, abandonment of at least one year, separation for three years and incurable mental incapacity leading to confinement in a mental institution for at least three years.
Visit the George Memorial Library, 1001 Golfview Drive, Richmond, to obtain the appropriate forms. According to the Fort Bend County District Clerk, attorneys review and update the forms regularly to comply with Texas law. Complete the "Original Petition for Divorce" and "Civil Case Information Sheet." This is the time to request a name change, if desired.
File with the Fort Bend County District Clerk's office and pay the filing fee. As of April 2011, the Fort Bend County divorce filing fee is $270 with or without children. Include any documents that prove the inability to pay and complete an "Affidavit of Inability to Pay." The District Clerk's office determines whether the petitioner is eligible for a fee waiver.
Provide legal notice of the divorce to the other spouse. The petitioner must notify the nonpetitioning spouse of the intent to divorce. Texas allows service of process methods. The nonpetitioning spouse may waive the service process by signing a "Waiver of Citation" in the presence of a notary. The nonpetitioning spouse also waives the right to contest the divorce. The county constable or a private process server can serve the citation.
Service by publication through posting and certified mail satisfies notification requirements when the location of the other spouse is unknown. The petitioning spouse cannot utilize certified mail if there are children under age 18 born of the marriage. If the nonpetitioning spouse needs attorney representation, the petitioner must pay the legal fees if serving by publication. If the nonpetitioning spouse files an answer to the petition, the divorce changes to contested.
Wait 61 days from the filing date. Complete the "Decree of Divorce," file at the District Clerk's office and sign up for the pro se hearing. Attend the hearing to finalize the divorce.