Residency and Jurisdiction in Texas Divorces

  1. Residency: At the time you file for a divorce you must have been residing 90 days in the county where you want to file and be considered a domiciliary of Texas for at least six month. If you are in the military (or a military dependent) and leave the county on active duty you DO NOT LOSE your residency. There are several service members or their spouses who file after they are gone from El Paso, since they get to keep their residency domicile even after they leave the state.
  2. Jurisdiction:This can be very confusing so lets start with a simple divorce with little or no property no children. The court can grant you what is called an In Rem divorce, meaning that all you obtain is a divorce, with no disposition of property between the two parties unless the opposing party makes a general appearance in the case, signs a waiver or signs the decree.

Now, let’s introduce property into the case. Unless the opposing party has made a general appearance or was served within the State of Texas the court cannot award any property owned by the community estate. This comes up all of the time when the opposing spouse resides outside of the state of Texas.

Finally, let’s talk about children. The court always makes a determination of what constitutes the home state of the child (normally where the child has been residing for six months preceding the filing of the divorce action). If the child has not been within the jurisdiction of the court for those six months then the court cannot make a ruling concerning custody or access to or possession of the child.

Looking at these rulings, the court could, for example, order a petitioner to pay child support and provide health insurance for the child, since he is before the court, but could not award him any custody, access to or possession of the child who has been  out of Texas for more than six months.

Always look for an experienced divorce lawyer to work out these residence and jurisdictional issues at your first meeting with the attorney! If you have any questions or would like to reach out and schedule an appointment with Douglas Smith, you can get in contact by emailing him at: or using our contact form here.