Understanding the divorce process in Texas can provide a sense of control during this challenging time in your life.

If you are considering a legal separation from your spouse, here is what you need to know about the next steps.

File a petition for divorce

First, you will need to complete the state’s Original Petition for Divorce form and make three copies. File one copy with the courthouse in the county where you and/or your spouse has lived for at least 90 days. The county clerk will stamp the other two copies. One should go in your records and the other must go to your spouse.

The filing fee varies by county but is usually $250 to $300. Couples who are able to demonstrate financial hardship may be able to have this fee waived.

Provide legal notice

If your spouse already knows about the divorce, he or she can sign a Waiver of Service to confirm that knowledge. Otherwise, an official process server will deliver the petition and your spouse must provide an answer to the court to confirm or contest the divorce. If he or she fails to do so within 20 days of receipt, you can ask for an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces can be finalized within 60 days of the petition date as long as both parties sign the Decree of Divorce.

Attend court

If your spouse contests the divorce, you will have to schedule a trial. Ideally, parties should attempt to come to an agreement about issues such as property division, spousal support, child custody and visitation without court intervention.

When parties to a divorce cannot agree, the judge may either order mediation or make the final decision about the critical end-of-marriage issues. Especially if you have children, you should strive to make the process as amicable as possible for everyone’s well-being. A qualified family law attorney can help negotiate a divorce agreement that meets the needs of both spouses and their children.