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What’s The Difference Between Filing & Suing For Divorce

Are you preparing to get divorced in Southeast Texas? If so, you may have heard the terms “filing for divorce” and “suing for divorce” being thrown around. This can be confusing: What is the difference between filing and suing for divorce? We want to clear up all the myths and misconceptions surrounding this issue. Legally speaking, these legal terms are used interchangeably—they mean the same thing. In this article, our Houston divorce lawyers explain the most important things you need to know about filing/suing for divorce in Texas. 

Filing vs. Suing For A Divorce: A Matter Of Semantics

As a general rule, you are far more likely to hear the term “filing” for divorce used in Texas rather than “suing” for divorce. Although the meaning is the same, the word suing comes across more aggressively than the term filing. Indeed, you are more likely to hear the word “suing” used in strictly adverse cases, such as those involving personal injuries, financial fraud, and commercial breach of contract. A divorce is, by nature, a lawsuit. But divorce is often considered different than other types of lawsuits. 

Family law cases, including divorces, are not completely adversarial. Often, the parties still share some mutual interests. Further, they may want to try to find an amicable solution and avoid damaging important relationships. Still, it is largely a matter of semantics. Whether you call it “filing” or “suing”, the party taking action is bringing a legal claim. 

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: An Important Distinction

While filing vs. suing is largely a matter of semantics, there is a very important difference between a divorce that has reached a mutual settlement and one that has not yet been resolved. 

In Texas, all divorce cases can be placed into one of the following two categories: contested divorce and uncontested divorce. A contested divorce is one in which the spouses cannot reach an agreement on any relevant issues, and the matter must be adjudicated by a court. In contrast, an uncontested divorce is one in which the spouses have reached an agreement. 

In either circumstance, the Texas divorce process begins with an Original Petition for Divorce. Entering this legal petition—which must be submitted in the appropriate county—is the equivalent of “filing” or “suing” for divorce. 

Whether you are getting a contested divorce or uncontested divorce matters. In Texas, the spouse that files a divorce petition must “serve” their partner with notice that a divorce suit is pending. With a contested divorce, notice is always required. In some cases, a spouse may file for a contested divorce without even informally telling their partner. 

On the other hand, with an uncontested divorce, the non-filing spouse can sign a waiver of notice before a notary public. This means that no service by a law enforcement officer or professional process server will be required. Put another way, a couple can essentially file for an uncontested divorce together. While one spouse will still need to file the divorce petition, the other spouse can waive their rights and allow the court to move forward in entering a final divorce decree in a faster, more efficient manner.  

Know Your Rights Before You File For Divorce

If you are preparing to file or sue for divorce, it is highly recommended that you get professional guidance before submitting any documents to the court. You do not want to make a mistake that could undermine your rights or bog down the legal process. Going through a divorce is complicated. It could be a major mistake to run to the nearest courthouse and submit a divorce petition before you are actually ready to do so. 

In Texas, most divorces are resolved outside of litigation. As a general rule, an uncontested divorce is a faster, more cost-effective, and less emotionally challenging option. While it is not possible in every case, it is certainly something that needs to be considered. An experienced Texas divorce lawyer will be able to listen to your story, review your case, and help you devise a strategy to best protect your legal rights and financial interests. 

Call Our Houston Divorce Lawyers For Immediate Assistance

At the Ramos Law Group, PLLC, our Texas family attorneys are attentive, solutions-focused representatives for our clients. If you are preparing to file for divorce, we are ready to help. Our lawyers have experience with both contested and uncontested divorces. 

To set up a completely confidential case evaluation, please contact our legal team today. From our locations in Houston, Sugar Land, and The Woodlands, we represent clients all around the wider region including in Galveston, Pasadena, Pearland, Baytown, Spring, and Conroe. 

Last Updated on February 8, 2024 by Mary E. Ramos

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Mary E. Ramos

Mary E. Ramos is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She is recognized and respected throughout the Houston legal community for dedication in effectively representing clients’ rights and interests. Mary understands the emotional side of divorce and brings a special compassion to each and every case.

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