Are There Advantages to Separating Without Getting a Divorce?
You may be experiencing problems in your marriage, but you’re not ready to call it quits yet. You’ve probably heard the term “legal separation” and may be wondering how it’s different from divorce and whether it might offer benefits compared to divorce.
What Is a Legal Separation?
In those states where it’s recognized, a legal separation emanates from a court. The parties to the separation typically ask the court to declare them legally separated (but not divorced), and the court issues an order stating the terms of the separation, including:
- Custody and visitation details
- Any child support or alimony
- Who gets to live in the marital home
- Any restrictions on the use or disposal of marital assets
Texas Does Not Recognize “Legal Separation” as an Enforceable Status
Though many states allow married couples to formally file for a legal separation, Texas does not. A Texas court will not issue a legal separation order; nevertheless, a husband and wife may still informally separate. Furthermore, a Texas couple can go to the court and get a temporary order governing custody, visitation, support, and alimony.
If I Can’t Get a Legal Separation, What Are My Options?
Texas law allows you to take certain measures to protect yourself, your children, and your property when you choose to informally separate:
- A “suit affecting the parent-child relationship,” or SAPCR – This type of legal action allows you to settle custody, visitation, and support issues without getting a formal divorce. You can file an SAPCR only if your child has lived in Texas for at least six months or Texas is considered their home state.
- Temporary orders – You can file a request for a temporary order for custody, visitation, or child support in Texas, if necessary to protect the safety and welfare of a minor child. However, a request for such a temporary order must be part of a larger case, usually either a divorce complaint or an SAPCR, or based on concerns about the child’s welfare. A temporary order can also set terms for use of marital property, as well as payment of marital debts, including spousal support.
- Partition agreements – Because Texas is a community property state, any assets you obtain while married (even if informally separated) become community property and must be divided as such upon a final divorce. A partition agreement lets you designate certain assets as separate property, exempt from community property rules, while separated but still married.
- Protective or restraining orders – While used primarily in situations where there has been domestic violence or abuse, protective orders can also address issues related to child custody, visitation, and support.
Why Would I Choose to Informally Separate in Texas Instead of Getting a Divorce?
If you believe your differences might be worked out but will require time and a little bit of space, then informal separation can be beneficial. Informal separation also may be an acceptable solution if your religious or moral beliefs don’t permit divorce.
Staying married for a period of time may also afford parties certain rights. For example, alimony is typically not available in Texas unless the parties have been married at least 10 years. Meeting that 10-year threshold may also entitle you to a higher social security benefit.
Contact the Proven Divorce and Family Law Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an aggressive and knowledgeable divorce and family lawyer, contact us by email or call our offices at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.