Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce and Annulment
Q. What is an annulment?
A. An annulment is a proceeding that terminates a marriage.
Q. What are some of the reasons I can get an annulment?
- the marriage occurred when one of the spouses was under age 18 without parental consent or court permission;
- a spouse was incapacitated by alcohol when married and the spouses never lived together after the marriage;
- one spouse used duress, fraud or coercion to induce the other to marry, and the defrauded spouse ceased living with the other after learning of the fraud;
- one of the spouses lacked the mental capacity to consent to marriage because of a mental defect;
- one of the spouses was impotent at the time of marriage and the other spouse did not know of the impotency, and has ceased living together after learning about the impotency
Q. I believe I am common-law married. Can I get a common-law divorce?
A. A common-law marriage occurs when a man and woman both age 18 or over:
- agree to be married;
- live together in Texas as husband and wife; and,
- represent to others in Texas that they are married
A common-law marriage may also occur if a man and woman, both 18 and over, sign a Declaration of Informal Marriage provided by the Bureau of Vital Statistics or the County Clerk.
There is no such thing as a common-law divorce. However, if a man and woman:
- stop living together; and,
- the common-law marriage is not proved to have existed in a legal proceeding within 2 years after the man and woman have stopped living together, it will be presumed that the couple was never married. However, this rule does not apply to common-law marriages that arose from signing the Declaration of Marriage.
Q. I just moved to Texas. Can I get a divorce in Texas?
A. For most persons, in order to file, one of the spouses must have lived in Texas for at least six (6) months, and in the county where the divorce will be filed for ninety (90) days.
If a Texas resident spends time outside of Texas, or their county of residence, to serve in the armed forces or other service of the United States or Texas, the time spent away on service is considered residence in Texas and the county.
Q. Must I hire an attorney to get a divorce?
A. No. A person can represent himself or herself. Such a person is called a pro se litigant. Pro se litigants must follow the same rules of the court and laws as attorneys.
Q. I do not want to represent myself. Can I get a court appointed attorney?
A. Generally, attorneys are appointed by the court in special circumstances. A parent whose parental rights are being involuntarily terminated; a person who may be held in contempt for nonpayment of child support at a contempt hearing; or, a minor who is entitled to notice in a legal proceeding, are all entitled to a court appointed attorney.
Q. I cannot afford an attorney. Is there help available for me?
A. There are programs available in Harris County that may be able to assist you. For most of the programs, you will have to meet certain financial guidelines. Some of the programs are as follows:
Gulf Coast Legal Foundation
Houston Bar Associations LegalLine
Houston Lawyer Referral Service
Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program
Mexican-American Bar Associations
University of Houston Law Center
Legal Aid Clinic
Q. What is the process for getting a divorce?
A. First, a divorce petition must be filed in the district clerks office in order to begin the divorce suit.
The other spouse must be notified of the suit. The spouse is notified by one of the following means:
- by personally receiving a copy of the divorce petition from a sheriff, constable, or court approved private process server;
- by certified mail from the district clerks office;
- by signing a waiver of service after the petition has been filed; or
- by publication if the spouse can not be located.
After the other spouse is properly notified of the suit, that other spouse must file an answer no later than 20 days after he or she has received notice of the suit, on the first Monday after that 20 day period. If the other spouse has not answered by then, the filing party may be able to go forward with the divorce without the other spouse.
Q. I am really eager to get my divorce. How soon will the court grant it?
A. The court will grant a divorce after the petition has been on file at least sixty (60) days. If the spouses are in agreement, the divorce can be finalized after the sixty- day period. However, if the spouses are not in agreement, the divorce may take several months to a year, especially if a trial is necessary.
In either case, the divorce will be final after the judge signs a Divorce Decree.
Q. Should I plan my next marriage before my current one ends?
A. You may do so, but realize that you may not get married immediately after your divorce is final. In most cases, a thirty (30) day wait is necessary. However, the court may grant a waiver to allow a person to marry sooner.