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Texas Divorce Basics – Let’s Keep it Simple

Hi, I’m Chris Schmiedeke from Divorce Simplified. I wanted to make a quick video today about the basics of a divorce. When you do something, anything, for a very long period of time, you get really good at it but you also learn the terminology and the lingo that go along with it. And you forget that maybe other people don’t understand that. So most of you who are watching this today probably don’t have the first clue about what the process is for a divorce. So let’s see if we can clear that up a little bit. I’m not going to get super detailed, but I want you to know generally the overall process.

What is a Divorce?

So obviously everybody knows what a marriage is. You get married, maybe you have kids, you accumulate property while you’re married, and then one day you decide you want to get divorced. So what is a divorce? A divorce is simply dividing the household into two. You have one household and now you’re going to make it into two households. You are going to take the property with you that you brought into the marriage. So anything that you had before marriage you’re going to take that with you. Same for your spouse. Now, the property that you accrued during the marriage, the things that you bought and got during the marriage including bank accounts and all of that, have to be divided. And then you have your kids. Your kids have to now live in two separate places. So what does it look like in terms of possession and all of that? So you’re making one household turn into two households. That’s what a divorce is.

How Does a Divorce Start?

So how does a divorce start? You’re going to start by filing a petition for divorce. That’s just a document that says, I want a divorce. Later on, in other videos, I’m going to break down the documents for you so that you can see what they look like and what they say. But essentially you’re just filing a document in a court that says, I want a divorce.

How do I file for my divorce?

What does that mean, you’re filing it in court? That means you’re typing up a document that needs to be in a specific form, that’s called an Original Petition for Divorce. You are going to take that document literally to the courthouse and file it. There’ll be a filing fee that you’ll pay. That starts the divorce process. That’s going to be filed in the County where you live. I’m not going to get into the details of how you determine what that is, but you need to have typically lived in the County that you want to file, for 90 days, and the State of Texas for six months before you can file for divorce. So that starts the process. You file the petition for divorce, a request for a divorce.

Notice of the Divorce, or Service

The next step is service. So just imagine that you get sued. You want to know that somebody’s suing you, correct? You wouldn’t want to get sued and not have a clue that you were getting sued, that could lead to some bad things. So the way around that is, you are entitled to be served the petition for divorce or the request for a divorce. You’re literally physically served with that document, that’s one way.

The other way, if you do it by agreement, the party who did not file divorce can waive service. It’s called a Waiver of Service. I’ll cover that document in a later video as well. That document says “I waive being served”. If that document is signed, notarized, it’s then filed with the court.

So why is all of this important? Because if you go before a judge and you want to do something with your case and the other party has not been served or waived being served, the judge is going to say “does the other party have notice?”  Now, typically, an answer will be, “yeah, I gave him the paperwork.” That’s not sufficient. Because people can lie. They can lie and say, “I gave them the paperwork,” but they never really gave them the paperwork. It’s too easy to lie. So there has to be some proof in the file that the other party was served. So if you have the party served the person who actually did it, the process server, is going to file a document with the court that says, “I served them.” That is the notice to the judge that they’ve been served.

On the other hand, you have the waiver of service. If the party has signed a waiver of service, they’ve notarized it, and that document is filed with the court, then the judge says, “okay, I see that there’s a waiver of service here, we can proceed.” That’s how you get service.  So once that has transpired, now all that remains is the actual divorce.

The Final Document – Final Decree of Divorce

The final step is the final decree of divorce. What is a final decree of divorce? It’s a piece of paper that basically ends the marriage makes two households into one and it encompasses everything. It encompasses property division, it encompasses clarifying what property you brought into the marriage, it encompasses where the kids are going to live. Who’s going to pay child support, who pays the health insurance. What the possession and access schedule for the kids is. All of that is included in the final decree of divorce. Again, it’s just another typed document.

However, it’s important to understand that the court does not create that document. The court doesn’t create any documents. All of those documents were created by the parties or their attorneys. So for instance, if you are getting a divorce and you’re trying to do it yourself you have to create the final decree of divorce. You have to type it. That’s why it’s probably better to hire an attorney to have it done correctly, but that document is typed and then presented to the court for signature.

So think of it this way. When you go to get divorced, there are only two ways that you’re going to finalize your case. You all are either going to reach agreements on everything, you’re going to type the final decree of divorce that reflects those agreements, both parties sign it, the decree, and then you submit it to the court and the court approves it.  I’m not going to get into the details of what the court will and will not approve. But the overall procedure is it’s agreed, one party creates the final decree of divorce, both parties sign it, and then they present it to the court.

The other option is you all don’t have any agreements. So then you have to go before the court, the court will hear what you have to say on what property do you want? What do you want to do with the kids? How much do you want in child support? All of those things, the judge will then make a decision. They’ll say, “okay, you’re going to take X, Y, and Z property, and husband, you’re going to take A, B, and C property,” You get that ruling, now you have to go create the final decree of divorce that reflects what the judge just told you. Once that’s done, that is presented to the court, the judge will review it and say, “yes this looks like what I ruled, I’m going to sign off on it”, and now you’re divorced.

That’s a very simplistic approach to what a divorce looks like. There can be a lot more documents involved but it can also be that simple. Later on, I’m going to produce a video on the basic divorce documents, where I’m going to talk about the Original Petition for Divorce the Waiver of Service, and the Final Decree of Divorce. On down the line, I will put together a video that discusses some of the more complex portions of a divorce.

Can you do a divorce by yourself? You can, and I’ve kind of given you a little outline of how that goes. My suggestion typically is though that you hire somebody to represent you. It will make your life a lot easier.

Chris Schmiedeke


I was born in Dallas and spent the majority of my life here. I moved to Denver in the middle of the first grade and moved back to Plano in the middle of the eleventh grade. I graduated from Plano Senior High in 1984 and then attended Richland College and the University of North Texas where a received a Bachelor of Business Administration. From there I attended the Texas Tech University School of Law and was licensed to practice law in May of 1993. 

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