Some couples prefer to explore legal separation – for any number of personal reasons – rather than divorce. The fact is, however, that, in the State of Texas, you can’t get a legal separation instead of a divorce because Texas simply does not recognize legal separation. Nevertheless, there are options you can pursue that amount to something very similar to what you likely think of as legal separation. If you are considering a legal separation, don’t put off consulting with an experienced Austin divorce attorney.
One point that’s especially important to keep in mind is that regardless of how carefully you arrange what amounts to a separation in Texas, you will remain married. This means that any assets and/or debts that either of you accumulate during the separation will remain community property. This can come as quite a shock if you separate for 20 years, amass an empire in the interim, and are required to divide it with your ex (if you do decide to officially divorce).
If you and your spouse share children, you can address the issue with a suit affecting the parent-child relationship (SAPCR). This allows you and your spouse to settle on the issues of child custody (known as conservatorship in Texas) and child support – or for the court to decide the matters for you – in relation to your separation. Typically, child support is based on the state’s calculation guidelines, but the court has considerable discretion in the matter (as it does with most matters related to family law). Once your parenting plan is finalized with the court, you’ll need to ask for an official modification if you need to make a change. If one of you files a SAPCR and the other files for divorce, the court will meld both into the divorce filing.
Instead of a divorce decree, you and your separating spouse can pursue a separation agreement, which is a legal contract that both of you and the presiding judge sign off on. This agreement can address all the components of a divorce, including the following:
Such an agreement can help keep each of you accountable to the other, and if a problem does arise later, you can request that the court intervene in the matter.
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