Finalizing Your Uncontested Texas Divorce During COVID-19 Restrictions

coronavirus and divorce

Before COVID-19, a divorce Petitioner was required to come to Court to give testimony and submit the Final Decree to the judge for signature. However, because of COVID-19 restrictions, courts have changed procedures so that in most Texas counties you can finalize an uncontested divorce by presenting your case to the Court on submission and get a divorce entirely by mail without any hearing. Very few counties currently require a remote (online) court hearing by phone or Zoom to finalize an uncontested divorce when the parties have a signed agreement.

To get your uncontested divorce case scheduled for a prove-up hearing, call or e-mail the Court Coordinator/Court Administrator. Every divorce judge has a set day and time blocked off for prove-up hearings for uncontested agreed divorces. That information is often listed on the court or clerk’s website. Otherwise, the Court Clerk (or Court Coordinator) will be able to tell you. Request a time and day that your judge regularly hears those cases. Usually, several cases will be set on the uncontested agreed divorce docket at the same time, and the judge will hear them one after the next. In Harris County, for example, the uncontested docket is held every day between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Harris County also makes it easy to schedule an uncontested divorce prove-up hearing online. In Travis County, hearings are also held every day 8:30 to 9:00 A.M. and also 1:30 to 2:00 P.M. In smaller counties, it is usually just one or two days a week.

All of the required documents must be filed with the Court Clerk before setting a hearing, including the Affidavit for Prove-Up and Final Decree. Some counties want the Petitioner to file a motion asking to have the case put on the docket. The easiest way to do this in an uncontested divorce is for both spouses to sign an Agreed Motion to Set Final Hearing. The Agreed Motion makes the request for a docket setting and, because it is also signed by the Respondent, let’s the court know that your spouse is in agreement and does not require additional notice. If the Clerk asks for a Motion, you will also need to file an Order to Set the Final Hearing for the judge to sign granting your request.

Affidavit for Prove-Up

An Affidavit for Prove-Up is a document that is a substitute for in-court testimony. It must be signed in front of a Notary Public, either in person or online. If you choose online notarization, the process will vary depending on the online notary service provider you choose, but usually the signer sends the document to be notarized to the online notary, either by e-mail or by uploading it to their website. The signer must provide a copy of a valid state issued ID and answer some basic questions to verify identity. Then, there is usually a short video call with the notary after which the signer is e-mailed or downloads the notarized document.

The Prove-Up Hearing

Most counties do not require you to actually appear online for the prove-up hearing. Instead, in those counties the judge will review the Affidavit for Prove-Up and the Decree on the date scheduled for your prove-up hearing. Then, 3-5 business days later, the parties can get judge-signed copies of the Decree from the District Court Clerk. If the judge requires a Zoom hearing to finalize the divorce, the Court Clerk will send instructions on how to set up the telephone/video conferencing in accordance with the technology available in that county.