Understanding Jurisdiction in Texas Divorce Cases


After careful consideration and seeking advice, the decision to pursue a divorce has been made. Whether the divorce is characterized by cooperation or conflict, the initial step involves filing a petition for divorce with the appropriate court posessing jurisdiction over your case. The concept of jurisdiction, a crucial yet often overlooked and misunderstood aspect of divorce, refers to the court's authority to hear and decide a case. In Texas, understanding jurisdiction is paramount when filing for divorce, as failing to do so in the right jurisdiction can lead to significant complications. 

To file for divorce in Texas, either party must meet residency requirements. Specifically, at least one party must be a domiciliary of Texas for the six months preceding the filing of divorce and a domiciliary of the county where the divorce case is filed for the 90 days immediately prior to the filing (as per Texas Family Code §6.301). In this context, "domiciliary" is defined as the place a person intends to establish a permanent home FAM. CODE ANN. § 6.301.

Why Does Jurisdiction Matter?

The Significance of Jurisdiction

Failing to file for divorce in the correct jurisdiction (including the correct county) can result in the court dismissing the case,  because the case has to be transferred to the correct county and cause additional expense, time, and stress.

What Happens When You Don't File in the Right Jurisdiction?

When a divorce case is filed in the wrong jurisdiction, it can lead to a variety of complications. The court may not have the legal authority to grant a divorce, and any decisions made by that court could be considered invalid. This means that the time and resources spent on the case may go to waste, and the divorcing parties may need to start the process anew in the correct jurisdiction.

Understanding Jurisdiction in Texas

In Texas, determining jurisdiction in divorce cases involves examining both personal and subject matter jurisdiction. Jurisdictional issues - whether personal jurisdiction or subject matter jurisdiction can be very complex given certain circumstances.  The below is just a general overview of personal and subject matter jurisdiction.  

Personal Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction pertains to the court's authority over the individuals involved in the case. In Texas, a court can generally assert personal jurisdiction over a party if:

  • The party is a resident of Texas.
  • The party consents to jurisdiction in Texas.
  • The parties lived together in Texas as a married couple.
  • The cause of the divorce occurred in Texas.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction:

Subject matter jurisdiction refers to the court's authority to hear and decide specific types of cases, such as divorce. In Texas, a court generally has subject matter jurisdiction over a divorce case if:

  • At least one spouse has been a resident of Texas for the preceding six months.
  • The spouse filing for divorce has been a resident of the county where the case is filed for the preceding 90 days.


Navigating the complexities of divorce proceedings in Texas requires a comprehensive understanding of jurisdiction. Filing for divorce in the right jurisdiction is crucial to ensure that the court has the authority to make decisions regarding your case. Coldwell Bowes is committed to guiding clients through every step of the divorce process, including helping them understand and navigate jurisdictional requirements. By staying informed and seeking professional legal assistance, individuals can minimize complications and work towards a smoother divorce process in the Lone Star State.

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