While divorce is the dissolution of a marriage, legal separation is a court-recognized, de facto separation while a couple remains legally married, which gives the spouses an opportunity to assess whether to formally get divorced. When it comes to the latter, couples will reach an agreement on alimony, property division, child custody, visitation, and child support or a judge makes such decisions on behalf of the couple.
Unfortunately, you cannot get a legal separation in Texas, since state laws do not recognize such agreements. However, there are several legal options that provide outcomes similar to a legal separation.
The following are some of the temporary arrangements couples could obtain while a divorce is pending:
Separation Agreement – This is a contract that states that the couple no longer lives together and specifies the duties and rights of each party while they live apart, but are not officially divorced. Although you do not need a formal agreement because Texas does not recognize separation, if you would like a court order for one or more divorce-related issues (e.g., custody, support, exchanging separate property, etc.), the separation agreement must be signed by each spouse and a judge.
Trial Separation – Rather than create a legal contract, couples may participate in a “trial separation,” in which the spouses live part for a determined period of time and make an oral agreement for the terms of the trial. Since trial separations are not overseen by the court, if a couple does not reconcile, then they must decide whether to file for divorce or seek a separation agreement.
Temporary Orders – While a divorce is pending, couples may obtain a temporary order to determine who gets what property, who must pay the bills, and who gets custody of the children. A hearing will be scheduled and a judge will then grant temporary orders, which are valid until a final order is signed by the judge.
Protective Or Restraining Orders – Available to protect victims of family violence, orders of protection can also determine who stays in or leaves the family home and who will get custody of the children. In general, protective orders in Texas are valid for up to two years.
Whether you are interested in separating or filing for a divorce, you need to hire an experienced family law attorney to protect your rights and best interests. At Hembree Bell Law Firm, we provide compassionate and personalized legal representation to help you obtain the most favorable outcome inside or outside the courtroom.