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How Long Do You Have to Live in Texas to File for Divorce?

As Texas (North Texas, particularly) booms commercially and industrially, an increasingly attractive destination for an ever-growing number of companies, relocation for out of state families surge.  Job opportunities within a wide range of industries flourish in Plano, Frisco, McKinney, and more.  Whole families relocate, or one spouse moves while the other stays put to finish the school year or otherwise tie up loose ends.

Sometimes, however, plans fall through and problems arise before the rest of the family moves.  With the divorce rate at around fifty percent in our country, it follows that some new residents will end up divorcing, whether they move together or not.

One of the most common mistakes folks make is assuming they must divorce in the state in which they were married. Simply not so!  If one spouse lives in Texas and the other in California, they can still get a divorce—the hitch is, certain residency requirements must be met for a court to accept a case. 

Texas Residency Requirements for Divorce

You can only file for divorce in a state where you or your spouse meets the residency requirement. Most divorce cases throughout the United States are filed in the county in which the filing spouse resides, though exceptions obviously exist.

Let’s look specifically at Texas residency requirements.

Prerequisites to File for Divorce

Texas, like every state, has its own laws regarding divorce eligibility. It makes sense—the state does not want to pay for non-residents filling up court dockets and using state tax dollars if they do not reside here.   Each state protects its jurisdiction and applies the appropriate laws as each state is distinct.

For instance, some states have alimony; nine states, of which Texas is one, are considered “community property” states—because of these variances, it might work better financially for one or the other spouse to file in Texas—however, people are not allowed to forum shop and file where the outcome suits them personally.  Rather, they must meet the Texas requirements:

1.) One spouse must be what’s termed a “domiciliary” of the State of Texas for at least six months and a resident of a county for ninety days before a divorce can be filed.

“Domiciliary” sounds fancy, but simply means the residence where you have your permanent home and to where, when you are absent, you intend to return; you may have a vacation home in Colorado, for example, but it’s not your residence, as you come home to Texas for school and work; essentially every person is compelled to have one and only one domicile at a time.

2.) After filing, there is a minimum sixty-day waiting period before the divorce can be granted.

So, if you’ve moved to Texas from another state but do not meet the above-mentioned criteria, your case, at present, will not be accepted in Texas.  Several responses are available:

A) Simply wait for the six-month residency requirement to be fulfilled until you file;

B) Check with a lawyer within the state that your husband or wife currently resides, if that spouse meets residency requirements; get a sense of how the rules of that state might work for you in your case; I’ve fielded many calls from potential clients focused on figuring out what the bottom line for them might be if their divorce is filed in Texas.

C) If you want to file in Texas, even if you have met the six months and ninety-day requirements, take all the actions that would suggest you now consider Texas to be your domicile.  That can mean buying a house instead of rent; get a driver’s license; register to vote; join a gym, church or both; invest in Cowboy season tickets (if you can stomach the price tag).  Become a part of groups within your community.  Put down roots.  Make Texas your home.

Final Thoughts

Another fact to ponder: for people moving to Texas, you can lose residency in your old state before acquiring residency here if you have not lived six months in Texas and you file.  So, before you file anything anywhere, take the time to investigate the law in your former state and consider your long-term plans and goals to see where it makes the best sense to eventually file.