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Texas Family Law

As in other states, family is central to the life of the average Texan. Because it’s so significant, there are many state laws that govern most aspects of family life in Texas, from marriage licenses to how a court handles child custody. If you’re considering marriage, adoption, or divorce in Texas, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the Texas family law that pertains to these major life events.

What Texas Law Says about Marriage

All states have age requirements for marriage. In Texas, the minimum age is 18, but those between 16 and 18 years old can get married with the consent of their parents or by petitioning the court (Sec. 2.101 and 2.102). The state’s laws regarding marriage also include the following rules:

  • Couple must obtain a marriage license and wait 72 hours before attending their marriage ceremony (though there are exceptions) (Sec. 2.001 and 2.204)
  • Certain blood relatives cannot marry, such as brother and sister (Sec. 6.201)
  • Those who attend a state-approved marriage education class can receive a considerable discount on their marriage license fee (Sec. 2.013)

In some cases, it’s smart to consult with a lawyer before marriage, especially when the couple decides to have a prenuptial agreement in place beforehand.

What Texas Law Says about Divorce

Texas family law allows for no-fault divorce, which means you don’t have to prove that someone is to blame for your marriage ending (Sec. 6.001). However, there are many other divorce rules, including the following:

  • 60-day waiting period before divorce can be finalized (Sec. 6.702)
  • Neither party can remarry for 30 days after the divorce decree is finalized (Sec. 2.009(a)(6) and 6.801)
  • When no-fault divorce is chosen, couple must have been separated for three years or have a marriage that is irreparable due to discord (Sec. 6.001 and 6.006)
  • One spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months and a resident of the county for at least 90 days before filing for divorce (Sec. 6.301)

Additionally, while the couple getting divorced can agree on how to divide their property, these matters are often too contentious for such an agreement and require the court to make those decisions.

What Texas Law Says about Child Custody and Visitation

In Texas, child custody is referred to as conservatorship, and these laws determine the legal and physical custody of children based on their best interests (Sec. 153.002). For this reason, the state allows children to express their wishes regarding custody and visitation (Sec. 153.009). Accordingly, a court may award joint or sole custody to the child’s parents, and in some cases, grandparents are even afforded visitation rights (Sec. 153.003 and 153.433).

What Texas Law Says about Child Support and Alimony

Divorce also affects the financial support that a former spouse must give to their ex and their children. With regard to child support, the state seeks to encourage parental responsibility by determining the paternity of the children, establishing court orders for financial and medical support, and enforcing those court orders.

  • The court may order the parent who does not have custody of the children to help cover the financial needs of those children, such as school fees, medical expenses, childcare, food, and clothing. (Sec. 154.001).
  • The amount to be paid will depend on the income of the paying spouse and the number of children, among other things (Sec. 154.125).

In terms of alimony (or spousal support):

  • Texas law may require one spouse to pay another if the spouse to be paid (“petitioning spouse”) cannot afford to cover his or her own minimum reasonable needs (Sec. 8.051).
  • Whether, how much, and how long a spouse must pay alimony will depend on why the petitioning spouse can’t support his or herself, how long the marriage lasted, the average monthly income of the paying spouse, the age and earning ability of the petitioning spouse, and other factors (Sec. 8.051, et seq.).

What Texas Law Says about Adoption

Texas law allows almost any adult to adopt a child or another adult under certain circumstances (Sec. 162.001 and Sec. 162.501, et seq.). With some exceptions, state law also requires the following:

  • Anyone over 12 years old must consent to their adoption (Sec. 162.010)
  • If the petitioner (adult seeking to adopt someone) is married, the spouse must also participate in the adoption process (sec. 162.002)
  • Child must reside with petitioner for at least six months before court may grant adoption (Sec. 162.009)

Read the full text of the compiled Texas Statutes for more details.

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