Legal Separation is not available in Texas. Therefore, couples who would like to terminate their marriage formally must follow the state’s divorce procedures. However, the court does permit couples to live apart and make temporary arrangements while a divorce is in process.
Temporary agreements may include a variety of issues, such as property division and spousal support. The court gives couples the right to reach an amicable settlement that works for the family. Iif the agreement is just to each party, the judge will approve the order and incorporate it into the final judgment of divorce.
If you would like to separate without divorce, you can form an informal separation by using other procedures of the Texas law. Keep in mind, Texas does not recognize any form of separation, formal or informal, therefore if you are still married, the court views any acquired assets as community property. This means the property is shared by both spouses equally, and an informal agreement does not offer the same protection as divorce.
For couples with children, you can file a special request called a “suit affecting the parent-child relationship,” which permits the court to determine child custody, visitation, and child support without a pending divorce. Once the court finalizes your parenting plan, if you wish to modify the arrangement, you will need to request the court for a change. If one spouse files a suit affecting the parent-child relationship and the other files for divorce, the court will merge the two requests into the divorce proceedings in accordance with the Texas regulations.
Another way to obtain some sort of separation with Texas’ law regulations, you can draft a partition and exchange agreement. In this contract, the couple transfers marital property to each spouse for it to become that spouse’s separate property. If you decide to divorce later, the court will not divide the property listed in this agreement because it is not community property. One caveat is that if you and your spouse reconcile, you must amend or terminate the agreement for it to be void.
For instance, if you get back together with your spouse and one spouse later dies, but you did not terminate the original partition agreement, the property that belongs to your spouse in the agreement will not automatically come to you through estate rules. Just keep in mind that if the property is separate, the court will likely transfer the assets to your spouse’s heirs.
Many people think that the date of separation has some legal significance. But inTexas, separated spouses still remain legally married, regardless of the duration of their separation. There is no special legal status associated with being separated in Texas and a couple is either married or not married. The court does not consider if they are residing together or not.
If you live in Texas and you are married, you do not have the option of getting a legal separation over a divorce since Texas does not recognize legal separations. However, that does not imply you are out of options. Many of the same goals of a legal separation can be achieved through the following as mentioned earlier:
- Temporary orders;
- Protective orders;
- Suits that affect the parent-child relationship and;
- Separation agreements.
The above options do have similar effects as a legal separation since they can have an impact on child support, alimony, visitation, child custody, and other issues without obtaining a divorce or before a couple finalized their divorce.
How does Marital Property Work in Texas?
Texas is a community property state, which implies that all property acquired during the marriage belongs to both spouses. Any income, real estate, retirement account, car, business, or debt acquired during the marriage is considered community property. This includes all property acquired during separation as well.
Without obtaining a divorce, community property rights and debts continue to accrue. While spouses remain married to each other, they also owe each other certain duties. Because all property belongs to the community during that time period, each spouse has a duty to not spend community funds in a wasteful manner or incur unnecessary debt.
For some couples, there may be advantages to separating but staying married. Remaining married may offer a measure of financial security to both spouses, postpone the cost of a divorce, and may allow for continuing health insurance coverage for both spouses. Once a couple is divorced, an ex-spouse is usually not eligible to continue as part of a family plan on the other spouse’s health insurance policy. Staying married, even while living separately, ensures continuous health insurance coverage until both spouses can obtain their own policies through work.
Lastly, there is one way that allows spouses to stay married but separate their finances – a post-marital property agreement. Texas rules of marital law permit spouses to enter into this type of written agreement to divide their property, income and debts, and make other agreements. With such an agreement, you can be financially divorced, even while remaining married. But, a spouse cannot be forced to sign a post-marital agreement. Keep in mind that signing such an agreement is voluntary. Seeking professional guidance on this matter may be useful in this process.
How Long Can You Be Separated?
Typically, there is no limit to how long spouses can be separated in Texas. The marriage will continue until a divorce or the death of one spouse. However, the only exception is in the case of a common-law marriage.
If the parties are “informally married” under Texas law meaning where the parties were not married by license but agreed to be married and thereafter resided together in Texas, a divorce must be filed within two years after they separate. A failure to timely obtain the claim that you have entered into an “informal marriage” will create a legal presumption that you are not legally married at all.
What is a Separation Agreement?
A separation agreement is a binding contract where spouses no longer live together but are not officially divorced. A separation agreement details the rights and duties of the parties while they are living selectively. This concept is similar to a legal separation because it can set requirements for visitation, financial support, or property rights.
To create a valid separation agreement the specific terms should be in writing and signed by both parties. A separation agreement can be a cost-efficient and a timely way of establishing visitation, financial, and property rights. But, this is a complicated process and it is recommended that it should be handled by a lawyer. Paying detailed attention to the terms will form a better legally versed contract and avoid any mistakes.
What Is a Trial Separation?
If you are not capable of requesting the court for help, you can participate in a trial separation, which is where you live apart from your spouse for a specified amount of time. Many couples utilize a trial separation to reassess the state of their marriage and to determine what steps they should take in the process.
In most cases, you and your spouse can make an oral agreement for the terms of the trial, such as financial support and visitation with the children. The court does not monitor trial separations, therefore if you do not reconcile, you will need to decide whether you should file for divorce or negotiate a contract for a parenting plan and property division.
When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?
If you reside in Texas and are having issues with your marital relationship. Then it may be useful to research the local rules or get in touch with the local Texas family lawyer to assist you with the process. There are major differences among the states regarding marital status. Therefore, it is important to know your local jurisdiction regulations and abide by them to make the process easier.