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A separation in family law is when a couple decides to live apart but remain married. Often this is an attempt to salvage the relationship before heading to divorce. In some states, a legal separation involves a court order, which addresses certain rights and responsibilities of both sides.

What is a legal separation in Texas?

Unlike most states, legal separations are not recognized in Texas. Texas has a few special laws regarding divorce. With no court involvement, it’s up to the spouses to decide how it will be handled. If in agreement with important issues, such as where the children will live and how bills are going to be paid, this can work out well. But what legal separation is and what it entails becomes much more difficult when there are disagreements.

The courts in Texas tend to get involved only in issues surrounding custody, support and other family law matters when a divorce has been filed. Of course, there is the option to file for divorce and temporarily receive a court order. Then the couple either can go through with the divorce or decide to work things out and not finalize it.

Informal separations can be a healthy way to determine if the marriage can work. Spending time apart not only can help the spouses focus on themselves and take appropriate steps to deal with their own issues — such as by seeking counseling. But a separation also can give a taste of what it would be like to live apart.

A legal separation is a way for a couple to test-drive working things out apart, which can impede communication. What is legal separation for the children? It’s usually a preview of the upcoming change in schedules and their responsibilities. For example, living separately often confers more responsibility onto the older children, who may have to babysit or help with more chores around the house, like preparing dinner.

But with all of the benefits, it’s important to understand that without the finality of it, one never fully knows how a divorce will truly impact his or her life. During a separation, there aren’t the issues of dividing property and seeking child support.

Handling Financial Matters While Married but Separated

There is an option that might be considered when a couple decides to stay married but wants to divide community property (such as income or real estate). It is through a partition and exchange agreement. The property is divided just as it would be in a divorce, but both sides must consent to the agreement by signing it. If it’s learned it wasn’t signed voluntarily, it may not be enforceable.

This can be a temporary resolution to financial matters. Or it may be decided that even if the spouses agree to stay together, it works best to keep the property divided. That’s up to them, which offers more leeway than what a legal separation would mean.

One downfall is that if during the separation divorce is decided upon, and the agreement hasn’t been undone, it will still be in effect. Another issue to consider is if one of the spouses dies, the terms of that agreement still will be valid.

The decision to separate or get divorced in Dallas is an important one. It might be a good idea to consult a family law attorney like Julie Johnson about the legal implications of either one and what factors to consider in both circumstances: (214) 290-8001.