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What is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

Legal separation is where a couple remains married but is legally recognized as separated. This allows them to come to similar agreements to what they would if they were to divorce, such as those involving property division, spousal support, and child custody, although legally, they keep their marital status. In a legal separation, a couple may one day reconcile their differences.

On the other hand, divorce ends a marriage completely. After a divorce, if a couple were to reconcile, they would need to marry again in order to be legally recognized as married.

Many people are surprised to learn that Texas does not recognize legal separation. However, the state does allow couples to take steps to protect their rights while they are separated before they divorce.

While we can’t support you to legally separate in Texas, we can explain the differences between separation and divorce. We can also guide you to protect your rights and assets if you are not ready to divorce. When you are ready to divorce, we will support you so that you can transition to a new way of life with confidence.

Divorce and Family Law Done Right in Sugar Land, Houston, and Surrounding Areas

When you marry someone, your lives become deeply intertwined, which makes separating incredibly difficult. Not only is it highly emotional, but it also involves complex issues such as those involving your children and assets.

Court orders are legally binding, so it is important that decisions are made with proper guidance and consideration. Once you are ready to begin the divorce process, it is important that you have support from the beginning.

At Skillern Firm, we are committed to offering personalized representation to our clients. We will take the time to understand your situation so that we can explain your legal rights and work to protect what’s important to you.

We will help you mediate your differences with your spouse. Mediation saves time and money on court involvement and helps protect important family dynamics. Where amicable agreements are not possible, we will also be prepared to fight on your behalf in front of a Judge.

Our goal is for you to transition to a new way of life, feeling confident about your future, whatever it takes.

Speak to an experienced family law attorney today by calling Skillern Firm at 936-213-8479.

Legal Separation VS Divorce, What’s the Difference?

Before we delve into the differences between legal separation and divorce, it is first necessary to understand what legal separations are. In states that recognize legal separation, couples are able to remain legally married while living separate lives.

Legal separation is a court-ordered agreement where couples can have legal guidance on key issues such as child custody, living arrangements, property division, and more. In these cases, a couple remains married but lives separately until they decide to either divorce or reconcile.

On the other hand, a divorce permanently ends a marriage. At the end of a divorce, couples are issued with a divorce decree which provides legal obligations involving all of the same factors listed above. However, divorced couples cannot easily reconcile and must remarry if they do decide they want to be legally married again.

Why do People Choose a Legal Separation Agreement Over Divorce?

People choose legal separation over divorce for many reasons, but some of the most common are:

  • Religious Beliefs – Divorce may be viewed as a sin or a violation of their religious values. Couples avoiding divorce for religious reasons may enter a permanent separation.
  • Reconciliation – If a couple hopes to one day reconcile their differences, then a legal separation will help them do that more easily.
  • Medical or Financial Decisions – For some people, it may also be beneficial to remain legally married so that they can make medical or financial decisions for one another in the event that one spouse becomes incapacitated.
  • Spousal Support – Some states require a marriage to last for a certain period of time before one spouse can claim spousal support. They may therefore choose to stay married until they qualify.
  • Larger Financial Settlement – Some spouses would rather stay married so that they can secure a better financial settlement when they divorce. For example, Texas is a community property state, meaning that any property acquired over the course of the marriage is subject to equitable division. Once a couple secures a divorce, they will no longer be entitled to each other’s assets and debts that they acquire.

Can I Get Legally Separated in Texas?

No, Texas does not recognize legal separation. While Texas recognizes the legal sanctity of marriage, it does not allow couples to legally separate without a divorce.

However, there are options available to you that will help you achieve similar goals if you do not wish to divorce. For example, you can use protective orders, temporary orders, and separation agreements. These options will allow you to have legal guidance on key issues before your divorce is finalized.

If you need a court order for custody, spousal support, or to exchange property, it needs to be in writing and signed by the Judge. These types of agreements can protect both party’s rights and keep them accountable to each other. If either party ignores a court order, then the other can ask a Judge to intervene.

What Options Are Available to Me If I am not Ready to Divorce in Texas?

If you and your spouse want to separate before or instead of divorce, then you should speak to an experienced divorce attorney who can help you explore your options and determine what your next steps should be. It is important that you take steps to protect your rights and interests.

Some common options that could be available to you include the following:

Protective Orders

If you have suffered violence at the hands of your spouse, or you are worried about your safety or the safety of your children, then you or your attorney can file a protective order. A protective order could be used to keep your spouse away from you and your children.

A protective order can also establish who gets to live in the marital residence.

Typically protective orders expire after two years or once a divorce has been finalized. Having time and space away from an abusive spouse could help you make important decisions from a place of clarity.

Temporary Orders

When a couple decides to live separately before they divorce, it is often beneficial for them to have temporary orders in place, especially if they have children or have high-value assets. Temporary orders give couples legal obligations for a set period of time, often until the divorce is finalized.

Temporary orders can be used to establish a temporary child custody agreement, who will have temporary use of property, spousal support, and an arrangement for the payment of debts. They may also be used to establish who will pay for health insurance or medical costs for their children.

Other reasons for temporary orders include paying the other spouse interim attorney fees, paying bills, and exchanging documents to ensure an equitable division of property and debts.

Suit Affecting The Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR)

If you and a significant other separate and have children, then you do not need to wait for a divorce to determine child custody and visitation. In fact, a Suit Affecting The Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) can also be used for parents who never married and decided to separate.

Most parents can file a SAPCR so long as their child has lived in Texas for at least six months or since birth. They may also file in Texas as it is considered their home, and they have not lived outside of the state for longer than six months.

A SAPCR allows parents to have legally binding child custody agreements without divorce.

Partition Agreement

Texas is a community property state, which means that all property acquired by either party while they are married is subject to equitable division. That means that for couples who stay married but live apart, any property and debts acquired are considered community property, and when the couple does eventually divorce, they will be subject to division.

On the other hand, separate property includes any property acquired before marriage, gifts, inheritance, and compensation. Separate property continues to belong to each spouse after they divorce.

A participant agreement allows couples to assign community property as separate so that the property won’t be divided when they come to divorce. It is important to speak to a family law attorney before signing a partition agreement to ensure that your rights are protected.

What Is a Trial Separation?

For some couples discussing divorce and the legal contracts that come with it can be highly emotional. They may not be ready for the finality of divorce and may prefer not to involve the court at this stage.

Couples can therefore use a trial separation before reassessing their relationship and determining what their next steps should be. In most cases, couples can make oral agreements and do not need to be monitored by the court.

However, if you decide not to reconcile, then it may be time to proceed with a divorce. Divorce will give you clear guidelines involving your property, children, and finances. This can help you move forward with your life and feel secure.

Ultimately, only you know your situation and what is best for you. Making the decision to divorce can feel confusing, and it is common to have a lot of questions. The best thing you can do is seek a consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer who can help you make an informed decision.

What is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce in Texas?

Although legal separation is not recognized in Texas, if you are not ready to divorce, there are options available to you that will help give you the stability and guidance you need.

However, you should speak to an attorney who can explain the differences and help you make a decision that serves your rights and interests both now and in the future.

At Skillern Firm, we are committed to our client’s best interests. We will take the time to understand what’s important to you so that we can advise you on your next steps.

Contact us today to schedule an in-depth consultation with an experienced family law attorney at 936-213-8479.