Nobody enters into a marriage expecting it to end in divorce. Frequently, when a couple decides to file for divorce, both parties genuinely believe the marriage is damaged beyond repair and the parties are estranged from one another. Once the divorce process begins, both parties often find themselves engaged in a stressful, frustrating procedure that can be traumatizing.
However, divorce isn't the only way to end a marriage. Couples who want to leave the option of reconciliation open or ease into a less stressful divorce process may opt to get separated instead of divorced.
Unlike many states, Texas does NOT recognize any type of legal separation; however, spouses are free to live apart from one another if they wish, creating a sort of proxy separation.
Today, we'll be looking at the benefits of separation, and how you can work with the Texas legal system to create a proxy separation for your relationship.
Separation Can Have Quality of Life Benefits
When couples divorce, they are likely to lose access to the financial benefits of marriage. Many married couples share benefits such as filing joint taxes, Social Security payments, or health insurance coverage provided by one spouse's employer under a family plan.
Separations allow both parties in the marriage to continue to receive these benefits without filing for divorce. Living apart and remaining married allows some spouses to maintain a good quality of life while also effectively ending their obligations to the marital relationship.
However, choosing to forego a divorce in exchange for receiving marital benefits is often a short-term decision. If either party wishes to marry someone else legally, they will need to file for divorce so they do not commit bigamy. However, if both spouses are on good terms and want to share benefits until each party has the opportunity to establish their own benefits arrangements, separation may be a good option.
Time Apart Enables Reconciliation (if Possible)
For spouses who are not entirely sure they want to end their marriage, spending time apart can be incredibly valuable. By taking some time apart from your spouse before you file for divorce, you can ensure that divorce is the right option for you and feel confident moving forward in the divorce process.
Separation can allow both spouses to reconnect with hobbies or other aspects of life they felt were missing during their marriage. If both parties are open to reconciliation, they can use the time apart for marital and separate counseling to help resolve any marital issues.
If you and your spouse are considering divorce but are not entirely sure you want to end the marriage, separation can be the tool you need to get your marriage back on track.
Separation Allows Parties to Prepare for Divorce Proactively
Regardless of how amicable your divorce is, the divorce process itself is often long and complicated, particularly if children or valuable assets are involved. The divorce process contains several other legal matters such as child custody and support, alimony, and property division, all of which must be determined before the divorce itself can conclude.
During a divorce, tensions are often at a high, which can result in divorce battles getting progressively uglier as each spouse reaches new levels of stress and frustration with the process.
Separation can allow you to tackle various aspects of the divorce process, such as establishing a child custody arrangement and dividing marital property, more calmly. Without court fees and timelines hovering over their heads, spouses may find navigating these legal disputes significantly easier during separation.
How Does Separation Work in Texas?
As we mentioned earlier, Texas does not recognize legal separation. However, Texas courts do allow couples who wish to divorce to live apart from one another and create a sort of de facto separation agreement using temporary agreements.
For example, if you want to establish a parenting plan for a child custody arrangement to avoid having a child custody battle in court, you can file a special request for a "suit affecting the parent-child relationship." The suit allows you and your spouse to finalize the details of child custody, visitation, and support arrangement without attaching those procedures to the divorce process.
If you want to divide your marital property before filing for divorce, you can work with your spouse to draft a partition and exchange agreement. This agreement creates a legally binding contract, allowing each party to divide marital property between them as they see fit without a pending divorce.
While Texas does not recognize legal separation, using various legal methods such as the suit affecting the parent-child relationship and partition and exchange agreement can allow couples to create a sort of de-facto separation agreement. Using these legal processes can help you make the divorce process less drawn-out and contentious if you do decide to file for divorce and formally end your marriage.
To learn more about the divorce process in Texas and receive legal assistance from a team with over 110 years of combined experience helping Texans navigate divorce, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.