Many states recognize legal separation as a way to allow married individuals to live apart but retain their married status. Doing so provides a number of benefits, including allowing the parties to share health insurance benefits. However, Texas does not recognize legal separation. But does that leave you with divorce as your only option? Are you stuck with your spouse until your divorce is finalized? Not necessarily.
Your options for achieving separation-like outcomes
Fortunately, Texas law does provide you with some legal avenues for protecting yourself pending divorce. Here are some of them:
- Temporary orders: Temporary orders are exactly as they sound: orders of a limited duration that address certain issues. These are typically utilized while a divorce is pending and may provide clarity around issues such which party is responsible for paying specific bills and who is allowed to live in the marital home. There’s a lot of room for the use of temporary orders, so carefully think through what you need clarity on and whether you can obtain it through a court order. Remember, though, that your spouse may contest you on some of these issues, so you’re going to need evidence to support your position.
- Protective orders: If you’re a victim of domestic violence, then you may want to consider seeking a protective order. While one of these orders will prevent your abuser from having contact with you, it can also serve as a type of “separation” order in that it can specify where your children will live and whether your abuser has to leave the marital home. In some instances, a protective order can even establish support obligations, such as child support and spousal support. We know that it can be scary to seek out one of these orders but doing so may be the best way to protect you and your child while you figure out a long-term plan.
- Separation agreement: Although Texas doesn’t recognize legal separation, parties can voluntarily enter into a separation agreement. This agreement is basically a contractual arrangement whereby the parties spell out their rights and obligations moving forward. This may include who will live in the marital home, who will pay which bills, what time with the children will look like, and what sort of financial support will be provided. Keep in mind that the terms of a separation agreement can be binding on you, so you don’t want to agree to one of these arrangements blindly. Make sure you understand the terms and the long-term implications they may have before signing off on them.
Competently navigate your family law issues
If you’re facing marital challenges, then you’ve probably got a lot on your mind. And navigating the legal challenges involved with divorce can be confusing and difficult. The good news is that there are a lot of legal steps that you can take to protect your interests as well as those of your children. You just have to know your legal options and how to effectively pursue them.
The road may not be as easy as you hope, but we’re confident that you can find a path forward that will allow you to close this chapter of your life and start the next one on the firm footing that you deserve. So, if you think that you could benefit from assistance in navigating the family law challenges confronting you, then we encourage you to research your representation options and consider speaking with the one that is right for you.