Jane-Ashley McMillan, Attorney at Law

You can’t be forced to stay in a marriage you don’t want in Texas

Getting a divorce in Texas is complicated. For as common as divorcing seems to be in modern society, few people seem to be able to give a straight answer on what you can and can’t do. If you’ve been contemplating divorce, you probably have several questions: Do you need a legal reason to get a divorce? Can your spouse deny your divorce petition?

Choosing to educate yourself on basic divorce laws is a good first step. The short answer to these questions are, no, you cannot be forced to stay in a marriage you don’t want. But also, yes, legal grounds for a divorce can be a factor in the process.

Legal grounds for divorce

Until fairly recently there were states that required one spouse to have valid legal grounds to divorce their partner. What was considered valid varied, but often included being in an abusive relationship, criminal convictions and adultery.

Establishing legal grounds for your divorce is still valid in Texas. It may even be in your best interests to establish legal grounds for your divorce, if you can. If these facts and circumstances apply to your marriage, you may be able to file a fault divorce:

  • Insupportability– This is one of the most common grounds for legal divorce. Insupportability asserts that you and your spouse have such serious disagreements and conflict that there is no reasonable way for you to repair and carry on with your marriage.
  • Adultery – It can be difficult to prove adultery when establishing fault. Individuals will often hire investigators, review their spouse’s movements and consult social media and other outlets for evidence to support their suspicions.
  • Living apart – This is more common than you may expect. Married couples sometimes separate and simply continue to live their lives. If you have lived apart from your spouse for at least three years, you have legal grounds to finalize your divorce this way.
  • Confinement to a mental hospital – It is often difficult, but if your spouse has been forced to live in a mental hospital for at least three years and is not likely to recover, you may finalize your divorce on these grounds.
  • Abandonment – While this is a legal way to establish fault, abandonment is extremely rare. In the eyes of the law, your spouse must have left your residence with the intention of abandoning you (leaving due to a toxic living situation, for example, does not qualify), and must have been away for at least one year.
  • Felony conviction – If you end up in a situation where your partner is convicted of a felony and spends at least one year in prison without pardon, divorce is an option.
  • Cruelty – Cruelty as a legal grounds for a divorce can be either physical or emotional. If you have been physically assaulted or emotionally abused by your spouse, cruelty is a likely contender for establishing fault.

A major benefit to filing a fault divorce is that you will most likely be able to skirt the required 60-day separation period that usually accompanies a standard divorce. You may also receive additional assets when they are dispersed by the court.

No fault divorce

As mentioned before, finding legal grounds which put your partner at fault are not required to file for divorce in Texas. You have the option to petition for a no fault divorce. A no fault divorce does not put blame solely on your spouse, and they are quite common.

If you are no longer happy with your spouse, feel that you are simply not as compatible as you once thought or have any other reason for ending your marriage, you may file a no fault divorce and begin your separation period. Divorces, like relationships, are all different, and if you’re unclear about your situation, consider speaking to a family law attorney.

Divorces are painful, no matter how amicable the split may be. Something that you were once sure of is now in question, and you’re not sure how to react. Keep these laws in mind as you contemplate petitioning for divorce. And remember, you do not have to stay in a marriage you don’t want.

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