How to Find a Divorce Record in Texas
A Texas divorce record is an official document created after two married people file original divorce papers in a Texas divorce court to dissolve their marriage legally. Examples include a divorce certificate, divorce decree, and divorce case record. Because negative feelings often accompany divorce, and marriage allows the couple to take advantage of public benefits, legal decisions are often needed to finalize a marriage dissolution.
In Texas, government bodies create divorce records or dissolution of marriage records. Hence, in several cases, these records are considered public documents that the general public can access. Even so, Texas divorce records can be some of the most difficult to locate. The laws surrounding divorces often make such documents only open to the people and legal professionals involved in the divorce.
Texas divorce records are considered court records. They may therefore be searched on third-party public record websites. Divorce records can offer personal information on minors, finances, and sensitive criminal information like domestic abuse. Because of this, divorce record, certificate, and decree availability is usually much lower than other types of public records because of the personal nature of divorces. Simply put, divorce records are significantly harder to obtain and search for than other types of public records.
Are Divorce Records Public in Texas?
Yes, except when public access is barred by law or court order. A divorce is considered a family court matter in Texas. Hence, many documents pertaining to these cases are available to the public. To obtain a divorce record in Texas, requesting parties can talk to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (TDHHS) or a district clerk’s office. However, the TDHHS only provides a record called divorce verification (a letter confirming that a divorce was recorded in Texas) and divorce indexes. For divorce decrees, an individual must contact the district clerk’s office in the county where the divorce was finalized. The TDHHS has a list of local district clerk’s offices on its Order Records website.
Government public record search portals and third-party public record websites may provide record search tools that can retrieve Texas divorce records, but record availability usually varies widely. Divorce records, in particular, may simply not be available through these sources.
What is a Texas Divorce Certificate?
A Texas divorce certificate is the most frequently requested document but includes the least information compared to the other two divorce record types. This document contains a statement that two people have gotten a divorce agreement, where they got divorced, and the date and time the divorce was finalized. A divorce certificate is usually requested when one of the divorced parties wants to change their name or remarry. For instance, if one of them wants to marry someone else after getting divorced, they will need access to this document. This document should only be accessible by the two people who filed divorce papers and the lawyer present during the divorce proceedings. However, under some circumstances, Texas allows others access to divorce certificates.
What is a Divorce Decree in Texas?
A divorce decree is different from a divorce certificate. This document contains all the same information as a divorce certificate, but it also includes information regarding the findings of the divorce case, i.e., the judgment. This includes spousal support, child support, child custody, visitation agreements, and property division. A divorce decree carries all of the agreed-upon information in the divorce hearing, including death insurance, whether or not a party will take back their maiden name, and how the parties will divide their debt. This decree is signed by the presiding judge and includes a case number. To make changes to this document, the parties who filed divorce papers must obtain it. In Texas, such individuals must visit or mail the district clerk serving the district where the divorce was filed. Several clerks also make it possible to request divorce decrees online. Note that a Texas divorce decree is often only accessible to those involved in the divorce (e.g., the spouse who filed the divorce petition, their ex, and lawyers).
What is a Texas Divorce Record?
A divorce record contains more information than a divorce certificate and decree. This dissolution of marriage record has the same data available in a divorce certificate and divorce decree, as well as all files and documents generated from the filing of divorce papers in Texas to the rendering of the court’s final judgment. A divorce record is technically the case file for a divorce case. Many courts will recommend preserving the divorce document should it be needed in the future for another court proceeding or if one of the divorcees decides to fight a decision or judgment made by the court. Divorce records are generally more publicly available than divorce certificates or divorce decrees. They can be searched for and obtained in the same ways as court and criminal records - with the submission of a written/oral request, valid identification, and record request fees.
How to Find Public Divorce Records Online
Publicly available divorce records are also managed and disseminated by some third-party aggregate sites. These sites are generally not limited by geographical record availability and may serve as a convenient jump-off point when researching specific or multiple records. However, third-party sites are not government-sponsored. As such, record availability may differ from official channels. The requesting party will be required to provide the following information to find a record using the search engines on third party sites:
- The location of the record in question, including the city, county, or state where the case was filed.
- The name of someone involved, providing it is not a juvenile.
How to Find Out if Someone is Divorced in Texas
Obtaining public Texas divorce records online is fairly simple. Interested persons can visit the TDHHS vital records application page to submit their requests. It is possible to order marriage dissolution records from 1968 to the present.
The cost to order a divorce document from the TDHHS is $20 per copy, and payment can only be made with a credit card or debit card. Usually, orders are processed within 20 to 25 business days.
Note that once an order is placed and confirmed, it cannot be canceled nor the money refunded. If the requested record is not found, the fee is still non-refundable and non-transferable. Furthermore, the more details requesting parties can provide, the faster and more accurate the record search will be. To complete the request, one should have the following information ready:
- The full name of one of the divorce parties. Occasionally, both parties’ names are required.
- Date or date range when the divorce was granted (month or day are optional)
- City or county where the divorce was granted (optional)
- The ex-spouses’ dates of birth (optional)
- The age of one or both of the spouses at the time of marriage
Should a record prove elusive, interested parties can use third-party websites to search divorce records in Texas. These websites are not government-sponsored, so record availability may vary compared to official government channels.
How to Find Texas Divorce Records in Person
Each relevant government body, including those in counties, cities, and districts, sets its operating hours and procedures for searching divorce records in Texas. Generally, individuals can obtain Texas divorce documents at the local and state levels. To get divorce records in person, an individual must visit the district clerk’s office in the district where the divorce was recorded or the TDHHS Vital Statistics central office to fill out an application form. The fee for each dissolution of marriage record varies by the custodian. For instance, the TDHHS charges $20 per record. This fee can be paid in cash, credit or debit card, check, or money order.
How to Find Texas Divorce Records by Mail
To obtain Texas divorce records from the TDHHS by mail, an individual should print and fill out the agency’s Vital records application form. Along with the application form, the applicant must include a photocopy of their valid photo ID issued by a government body. This may be a state ID card, driver's license, or passport. The applicant must also include the applicable fee, as indicated on the form. Fees are payable by money order or check to the “DSHS Vital Statistics”. Below is the mailing address:
DSHS Vital Statistics
P.O. Box 12040
Austin, TX 78711-2040
Divorce Rate in Texas
The rate of divorce in Texas is estimated to be 4.8 per 1,000 total population in 2016, lower than the national rate of 5.2 per 1,000 total population in the same year. The number of divorces in Texas has been steadily declining since 2006 when the divorce rate was 6.4 per 1,000 total population. As of 2020, there were 1.5 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants.
There are several sources of divorce statistics in Texas. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Vital Statistics Unit maintains records of all marriages and divorces in the state. The DSHS website offers a searchable database of marriage and divorce records dating back to 1966.
The Texas Family Code also requires county clerks to maintain records of all divorces in their counties. These records are available to the public, but most counties charge a small fee for copies.
The Texas Supreme Court also keeps records of all divorces filed in the state. These records are available online, but they only date back to 2003.
Divorce statistics can be helpful for a variety of purposes. They can help researchers study trends in marriage and divorce, and policymakers can use them to develop programs or initiatives to reduce the rate of divorce.
Does Texas Recognize Common-Law Marriages?
Yes, Texas recognizes common-law marriages among state residents. Couples can make a case for their common-law marriage once they fulfill the following requirements:
- Prove they agreed to get married
- Have lived together as a couple
- Publicly conduct themselves as a married couple.
There are no rubber-stamp requirements on how long a couple must cohabit. However, persons must be of age, i.e., 18 years or older, and prove to have met all other conditions.
How to Get a Divorce in Texas
Anyone who wants to get a divorce in Texas must begin by filing an original petition for divorce with a Texas family court. (The family court is a division of the state's district court.) The spouse who files the original divorce papers is referred to as the "petitioner". Petitioners can find divorce forms on the state law library site. They can also use the state courts' self-help website to fill and review divorce forms if filing for an uncontested divorce without minor children. Some local district clerk's offices (like the Dallas County district clerk's office) may provide Word or PDF forms for petitioners to download. Moreover, county law libraries (such as the Harris County Law Library) may offer links to official sites where petitioners can find marriage dissolution forms. These divorce forms often contain filing instructions.
Completing the divorce petition requires the petitioner to fill in names, addresses, and marriage and separation dates (or estimates). The petitioner must also check a box in the divorce petition form verifying that they (or their spouse) have lived in Texas for the preceding six months and one party has lived in the county of filing for the preceding 90 days. Without fulfilling this requirement (also known as the "Texas residency requirement"), it is impossible to file for a divorce in Texas.
Subsequently, the petitioner must legally notify their spouse ("the respondent") of the divorce. Service of divorce papers can be performed in person through an official process server or by certified mail. If the physical location of the respondent is unknown, the court may allow service by posting at the courthouse or publication in a local newspaper.
After filing and service, the court hearing will be held 60 days after the divorce petition has been on file at the court. Per the Texas Family Code, Texas courts cannot finalize a divorce agreement until the expiration of the divorce waiting period (i.e., the 60 days). In the interim, the court may issue temporary orders for some divorce matters (e.g., who can live in the family house), and the spouses may need to partake in a discovery process (the exchange of information about property and debts) and other court procedures.
Note that Texas law does not require the establishment of fault to get a divorce. Hence, one does not need to blame their spouse for the marriage's breakdown. According to the Family Code, a Texas court can grant a no-fault divorce based on insupportability, defined as "a marital relationship with conflict or discord and no reasonable expectation of reconciliation". This is the simplest divorce method for couples. However, it is also possible to get a divorce in Texas based on fault upon the following grounds:
- Conviction of a felony
- Living apart
- Confinement in a mental hospital
Generally, a Texas divorce can be contested or uncontested. When a divorce is contested, it means that there are one or more issues that the married couple cannot agree on. Both spouses must appear before a judge to resolve the matter in these cases. However, an uncontested divorce means that the spouses either agree on all divorce matters (child custody, maintenance, property division, etc.) or that the respondent failed to answer the divorce petition, leading the court to rule in favor of the attending spouse.
It is not a legal requirement to hire an attorney for a divorce case. All the same, a spouse may consider a legal professional’s help for divorce proceedings, especially when the case involves minor children, several assets, or is contested.