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


A divorce is a dissolution of a marriage and a legal separation is a court-recognized separation where the couple stays married but divides assets, child custody, etc. While the state of Texas doesn’t recognize legal separations, there are steps that can be taken with the court to protect the rights of both parties while they are separated.

What Are the Options If Texas Doesn’t Recognize Legal Separation? 

From a legal standpoint, there isn’t a true legal separation in Texas, however, this doesn’t mean that a Texas couple can’t separate. For couples who want to separate but aren’t quite ready for a divorce, an attorney can draft a contractual agreement pertaining to the marital issues and then petition the court. The documents may include Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) for child custody, Community Property Division Agreement, and Partition and Exchange Agreement.

These documents are exceptionally detailed and must meet certain Texas guidelines, so it is best to have an attorney handle the drafting of such documents. The documents can outline everything from who gets the lawn mower to who the kids live with and everything in between. It is extremely important to be sure that all matters are clearly spelled out in the temporary orders.

Another option is a permanent separation, which is also not legally recognized by the state of Texas. Some people choose a permanent separation instead of divorce for financial or religious reasons. This agreement can address some of the same decisions that would be made in a divorce, but the couple still would be legally bound to each other and cannot marry another person.

Reasons for Choosing a Separation or Divorce 

Some couples opt to end a marriage without really giving the marriage a chance. Sometimes taking time apart can give them time to determine if a divorce is really the best option. During the separation period couples often seek counseling to try to resolve any marital issues.

For other couples, divorce may be frowned upon by their religion. A separation allows them to be apart while still maintaining their religious beliefs. Some couples still love each other, but simply cannot live together anymore. These are just a handful of reasons why couples choose to separate before, or instead of, divorcing.

In some cases, however, divorce is more practical than a separation. Situations where a divorce may be more practical include:

  • Situations where there is no chance at a reconciliation.
  • The relationship is toxic.
  • There is abuse in the relationship.
  • The relationship is causing stress for the child.
  • The marriage simply won’t work any longer.

In these situations, dragging out a prolonged separation isn’t likely to benefit anyone and will likely result in more issues in the long run.

Do I Need an Attorney for a Divorce and Separation? 

Regardless of which path you and your spouse choose, it is critical that both parties protect their rights and assets. Making the decision to divorce or separate doesn’t typically require the assistance of an attorney, but if you want to have legal documentation to support your separation, or if you wish to file for divorce, it is always best to have an attorney on your side. This is particularly true if you have property, assets, and/or children.

The divorce attorneys in Houston at Lindamood & Robinson, P.C., can discuss your situation with you and determine what documents might be best for your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at one of our convenient Houston area locations.




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