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Sometimes, there comes a point in a marriage when you start discussing divorce or separation. Legally speaking, these are two different things. Divorce is the legal termination of a marriage which begins with either spouse filing a formal petition for divorce with the court. Legal separation, on the other hand, is a court proceeding in which many divorce-related issues are decided, but the spouses remain legally married while physically living apart. Some couples find legal separation to allow for some space without having the finality that comes with divorce. Legal separation, however, is not available in every state.

Does Texas Recognize Legal Separation?

While you can, of course, get a divorce in Texas, you cannot get a legal separation. The state of Texas does not recognize legal separations. If, however, you are looking for some structured space from your spouse without going through the finality of divorce proceedings, then there may still be options for you. While Texas law may not recognize legal separation, there are still options which will grant you a similar outcome to a legal separation.

A goal of legal separation may be to get court-ordered financial support or visitation orders in place while living separately from your spouse. This can still be accomplished without getting a legal separation. For instance, you may be able to get a temporary order from the court. A temporary order can address many different things; the order can dictate who gets custody of the children or who gets possession of what property. It can even determine who pays what bills. A temporary order can be used while a divorce is pending, but has not yet been finalized. Alternatively, it can be used without getting a divorce at all.

If you wish to separate from your spouse, but want child custody issues settled, then you may be able to file a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). Essentially, this is a custody case that is not related to a divorce case. Through filing a SAPCR, you can establish custody, conservatorship, and access to children without having to initiate divorce proceedings.

In some instances, you may wish to pursue a protective order. A protective order is available for victims of family violence. In effect, a protective order is very much like a legal separation. It can determine child custody issues such as where the children will live and who has visitation rights and access to them. The protective order can also dictate who stays in the marital home and who leaves. Furthermore, child support and alimony, or spousal support, can also be established in the protective order. Protective orders do ordinarily have an expiration date, however. This is usually two years after the order is issued.

If you wish to separate from your spouse, you may want to consider putting a separation agreement in place to address some of the issues that may come up during the separation period. A separation agreement is a contract between two spouses that do not live together anymore, but are not divorced. The separation agreement addresses the same things a court would if a legal separation was available. It can address things like spousal support, visitation, and property rights. The agreement will need to be in writing and signed by both parties.

Family Law Attorneys

Whether it is a separation or divorce, the team at Navarrete & Schwartz is here for you and your family. We are proud to serve the residents of West Texas. Contact us today.