Call 713-443-6730 Now

Is Legal Separation Required Before Divorce in Texas?

Does Texas Have Legal Separation?

Texas doesn’t have a legal separation statute. The state also doesn’t require spouses to separate before they can begin their divorce process. Besides, there’s no defined process for a legal separation. However, the rationale behind separation before divorce lies in the following:

  • Preventing quick divorces that the parties may not have carefully thought through
  • Providing a cooling-off period
  • Ensuring that the divorcing parties aren’t just responding to their knee-jerk reaction to a complicated problem.

If you and your spouse are considering a separation before filing for a divorce, consult a divorce mediation law firm in Houston for legal guidance. You can learn how the separation affects your divorce and what would happen if you decide not to get divorced eventually.

Legal Separation in Texas Vs. Divorce

In Texas, the concepts of “legal separation” and “divorce” have distinct meanings, and it’s important to understand the differences:

Legal Separation in Texas Law

  • Not Formally Recognized: Texas does not formally recognize legal separation. This means that there is no court process or legal status in Texas that specifically defines or governs legal separation.
  • Living Apart: Couples in Texas can choose to live apart without going through any formal legal process. However, living apart does not change their legal marital status or how the law treats their property and debts.
  • Informal Agreements: While there is no formal legal separation, couples may enter into informal agreements or use tools like separation agreements to outline the division of assets, child custody, and support while they are living apart. However, these agreements are not court orders and might not be as enforceable as the terms set out in a divorce decree.

Divorce in Texas

  • Legal Dissolution of Marriage: Divorce in Texas is the legal process by which a marriage is formally ended by the court. It involves the legal termination of marital status, along with orders regarding the division of property, child custody, child support, and alimony (if applicable).
  • Community Property State: Texas is a community property state, which means that any property acquired during the marriage is considered jointly owned and is usually divided equitably (though not always equally) in a divorce.
  • Court Involvement: The divorce process involves filing a petition for divorce in court, serving the petition to the other spouse, and going through legal proceedings to resolve issues related to the dissolution of the marriage.

In summary, while couples in Texas can live separately and make informal arrangements regarding their separation, there is no legal status of “legal separation” as recognized by the state. Any formal division of assets, child custody, or support arrangements would need to be addressed through the divorce process in a Texas court. For individuals considering separation or divorce in Texas, consulting with a qualified family law attorney is advisable to understand their rights and options under state law.

In What Ways is Texas Legal Separation Beneficial

Apart from giving the separated couple room to think their divorce decision through, a timeout period can also be beneficial in other ways. Couples can choose to file a separation agreement, which offers the same protections as those in a regular divorce, such as:

  • Alimony
  • Property division
  • Parenting plans

The agreement provides room to focus on the relationship without worrying about how to handle these issues. While separation may be tedious, it can be beneficial in protecting your rights in the process. A divorce lawyer in Houston can take you through the benefits and help you determine whether you should go the separation way, depending on your circumstances.

What is the Difference Between Divorce and Legal Separation?

Divorce implies termination of a marriage, and either spouse may file a petition for divorce with the court. During the process, the divorcing couple agrees on issues like child support and custody, property division, and spousal support before going before a judge for the final divorce decree. The court helps the divorcing couple resolve any lingering matters.

Once the divorce is finalized, it means the marriage is formally dissolved. Both spouses can move on with their lives as single people without any legal attachment to each other.

On the other hand, a legal separation has the same divorce-related issues that the judge must decide upon. However, the spouses will still be legally married despite living separately. If you wish to remarry after a separation, you must first request the court to convert the separation into a formal divorce.

What If I Want a “Legal Separation” in Texas?

The law in Texas doesn’t recognize legal separation, and married couples remain married until they’re no longer married, meaning there’s no in-between. However, spouses that wish to have a separation before a divorce can do so by mimicking the arrangement through a separation agreement.

To benefit from some of the protections in a legal separation, your Houston divorce lawyer can help you file a Partition and Exchange Agreement. It’s a form of a postnuptial contract and can override the standard procedures of community property. You will create a legally-binding parenting plan by filing a “Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.”

The agreement allows the court to determine child custody, support, and visitation without a pending divorce. If you want to change the plan after the court finalizes it, you can file a petition for modification. The court will merge the parenting plan and the other divorce files in the final divorce decree.

What is a Trial Separation?

Divorce is a painful and emotionally-draining process for many couples. They may not be mentally and emotionally stable to discuss legal contracts and agreements. If you’re not ready for divorce, you could seek counsel from a reputable Houston divorce mediation law firm for a trial separation.

In this arrangement, you will live separately for a prescribed period to reassess your marriage’s state and determine the next steps to take. Like most spouses, you can make an oral agreement for the separation terms, including financial support, child custody, and visitation.

The court won’t monitor this separation, and if you don’t reconcile, you can decide whether to file for divorce. A Houston divorce attorney can provide legal counsel in divorce and separation matters to enable you to weigh your risks and options.

Are There Things I Should Not Do While Separated in Texas?

While Texas doesn’t recognize legal separation, there are things you should avoid during the separation. Doing them could dramatically affect the outcome of the divorce if you finally dissolve your marriage:

Filing Tax Returns without Consent from Your Spouse

After separation, many spouses eventually separate their finances, credit cards, and bank accounts. Some also file their taxes separately. Given the different ways to file tax returns and claim tax deductions, it’s advisable to coordinate with your spouse to minimize tax issues that may arise with the IRS.

Spending Money or Buying Luxurious Gifts without Consent

If you finally decide to get divorced, you may have to give an account of substantial expenditures like traveling, gambling, or gifts to third parties.

Remember, your spouse has an equal interest in all community property, and spending community money without their consent may give them a legal claim to those funds. Also, avoid spending community money on a new romantic interest.

Changing Beneficiary Designations without Consent from Your Spouse

If you have health and life insurance, retirement, or bank accounts that list your spouse as a beneficiary upon death, avoid changing the designation without your spouse’s consent during separation. In the case of retirement assets, your spouse must give written permission to be removed as a beneficiary, whether the account is a community or separate property.

Legal Guidance From a Skilled Divorce Mediation Lawyer

No one gets into marriage planning to get divorced after some time. However, issues arise that lead to a divorce, but before filing for the process, it helps to have a separation period. It allows the couple to think through their differences and determine if they should give their marriage another chance or dissolve it.

A skilled and compassionate lawyer from a divorce mediation law firm in Houston can play a crucial role in helping the couple reach the final agreement. Our divorce attorney can listen to your case and provide the legal counsel and support you need when faced with a divorce. We can help you reach a decision that brings you peace and stability. Get started today by calling us.

Leave a Comment