From time to time, couples reach out to our team of attorneys at Garrity Traina with a desire to “legally separate” without going through a divorce. While they may have valid reasons for seeking this alternative to dissolution, it’s important to understand that legal separation is not recognized in Texas. In the Lone Star state, you are either divorced or married, according to the law.
In this article, our Fort Worth divorce lawyers will delve into the concept of legal separation, discussing why it may be appealing to some couples and why having a separation agreement in place could be a wise choice instead of pursuing a divorce.
Understanding Legal Separation
Legal separation is a process where a married couple formally separates but remains married without the obligations of a marital relationship. It differs from divorce, as the couple remains legally married but lives apart. Although legal separation is recognized in certain states, Texas is not among them.
The Appeal of Legal Separation over Divorce
While each couple’s situation is unique, there are several reasons why Texas couples may opt for legal separation over divorce. Here are five possible motivations:
Trial Separation: Some couples use a legal separation as a trial period to determine whether they want to remain together or pursue a divorce. It allows them to live apart, work on their issues, and decide if they are better off together or apart.
Religious or Personal Beliefs: Many couples have religious, cultural, or personal beliefs that discourage divorce. Legal separation offers a way to live separately while maintaining marriage and honoring these beliefs.
Financial Reasons: Financial considerations can influence couples to separate instead of divorcing. For instance, legally separated couples can still file joint tax returns, potentially leading to lower taxes. Staying married also allows them to continue receiving health insurance benefits.
Child Support: Some couples choose separation without divorce to avoid child support and custody implications. They may find it easier to have an informal agreement rather than seeking court orders.
Immigration Issues: Married couples may decide to live separately but remain legally married due to immigration consequences. If one spouse is undocumented, divorce could result in deportation.
Informal Separation in Texas
Although Texas does not recognize legal separation, nothing prevents couples from living apart. If a couple wishes to lead separate lives while remaining married, they have the freedom to do so. However, it is crucial to consult with an experienced family law attorney before entering into this type of arrangement.
How Long Can Separation Last in Texas?
In Texas, couples can remain separated indefinitely. Some couples have lived apart for 5, 10, or even 15 years. However, the marriage is not officially over until a divorce is finalized or one spouse passes away.
Alternatives to Legal Separation in Texas
While legal separation is not an option, there are alternatives available in Texas that offer similar outcomes. These include separation agreements, temporary orders, protective orders, and Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR).
At Garrity Traina, our experienced Fort Worth divorce attorneys listen attentively to your unique situation to determine the options that best suit your needs. We aim to provide you with legal protections during separation or before finalizing the divorce.
Exploring Separation Agreements
Even though legal separation is not recognized in Texas, couples can have a separation agreement drawn up when choosing to live separate lives. This agreement serves as a contract between spouses, documenting the terms of the separation, including child custody, visitation, support, and property division.
To ensure the enforceability of the separation agreement, it is essential to have an experienced family law attorney assist in its preparation. Family matters are intricate and should not be handled without professional guidance.
Weighing the Benefits and Drawbacks of Separation
Separation brings both benefits and drawbacks to couples. On the one hand, it allows for independent lives while still being legally married, safeguards financial interests, and leaves room for potential reconciliation. On the other hand, it may take an emotional toll, provide limited legal protections, and restrict the ability to marry someone else.
If you and your spouse are contemplating separation, it is crucial to consult an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the options available under Texas law. Their expertise will help you make informed decisions, minimizing potential mistakes or complications down the road.
Need Assistance with Separation? We’re Here for You.
Even though Texas does not recognize legal separation, our team of family law attorneys at Garrity Traina can help you find a suitable solution to meet your needs while protecting your rights. Separating can be a complex and emotional process, but you don’t have to face it alone.
Our goal is to support you during this difficult time, providing you with the necessary tools and information to make informed decisions as you move forward in your life. To schedule a consultation, contact Garrity Traina today at 817-900-3220. We proudly serve clients in Fort Worth and the surrounding areas.