There’s No Such Thing as a “Legal Separation” in Texas

Clients struggling through rocky marriages often ask if “legal separation” is available as a last-resort option before getting a divorce in Texas. They want to take a break from the relationship and live apart from their spouses while they consider getting back together. But they also want similar rights and protections found in a formal divorce process, so they don’t have to worry about permanently resolving their property and child custody issues while separated.

Legal separations are available in many states and even required before couples can get a divorce in others, but they aren’t recognized in Texas. Just because you’re physically separated from your spouse doesn’t mean you’re financially separated. Without a valid agreement to the contrary, Texas law regarding separate and community property still applies during your separation – you keep your respective pre-marital property, but all assets acquired and debts incurred during the marriage remain part of the community estate.

Although legal separation isn’t available in Texas, an experienced Dallas divorce lawyer at Epstein Family Law can help you mix and match a few other arrangements that will provide similar benefits and protections while you’re separated but still legally married.

Post-Marital Agreements

Post-marital agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements and often cover the same territory, but they’re also effective for addressing new issues that arise during the marriage, such as ownership and control of family businesses, asset ownership determinations, inherited debt issues, probate and estate planning, new or modified life insurance policies and much more.

You can also use specific types of post-marital agreements to override the default separate and community property rules in Texas. These include partition agreements (partitioning community property as separate property to one spouse) and conversion agreements (converting one spouse’s separate property to community property).

Child Custody and Visitation

You’ll need more than a contract to address parental rights and childcare while separated. Texas requires parents to file a divorce petition or a suit affecting the parent-child relationship (“SAPCR”) before they can create a legally binding child custody and parenting plan. Any agreement between you and your spouse regarding the kids without a pending divorce or SAPCR may be evidence of your intent, but it’s not likely enforceable in the courtroom.

Consult with a Dallas Divorce Attorney  

If you have questions about this post or a family law case, contact Epstein Family Law at 972-232-7673 to consult with a skilled Dallas divorce lawyer. We handle divorce cases and prepare prenuptial and post-marital agreements for clients in counties throughout the Greater Dallas area, including Dallas, Collin, Denton, Tarrant, Ellis, Rockwall, Kaufman and Johnson, plus others.