Most states recognize legal separations, but Texas is one of the few states that does not. A legal separation is a court-approved separation. Like a divorce, the spouses live apart and have different legal rights and obligations. The main difference is that the couple is still legally married. Legal separations are beneficial for couples that do not want a divorce yet but still want to settle issues about finances, property, and parenting. Although you cannot get a legal separation in Texas, you have other options to protect your rights while you and your spouse are separated.
Under Texas law, courts can enter temporary orders after you file for divorce. Through temporary orders, the court can resolve a variety of issues. The most common issues include division of property, child support, spousal maintenance, and parenting time. The court can also enter orders prohibiting the spouses from engaging in certain conduct, such as depleting marital assets, incurring joint debts, and/or removing the child from the state. These orders are not permanent and remain in place only until the divorce is finalized.
Temporary orders are made at a hearing, where both parties are given the opportunity to present their sides. However, you can avoid a hearing if you reach an agreement beforehand. The agreement, which is known as a contractual separation agreement, can address all of the same issues that would have been dealt with at the temporary orders hearing.
In order to make the separation agreement legally binding, you need to put it in writing and file it with the court. If and when the judge approves the agreement, it becomes legally binding. Many people find that resolving all issues by a written agreement is preferable than having a judge enter orders. Plus, you can save a lot of time, hassle, and money by avoiding the hearing.
Are you and your spouse considering separation or divorce? An experienced family law attorney can help protect your interests and rights.