A legal separation is a court-recognized separation where the couple remains married but is often pursuing divorce. A divorce, of course, is the dissolution of the marriage. While Texas does not recognize legal separations, couples who separate before divorce may take steps with the court to protect their rights while they are separated.
How does separation differ from a divorce?
From a legal standpoint, this depends on where you live. In legal separations, couples remain married. This doesn’t mean that a couple in Texas can’t separate. Although it’s not recognized legally, the couple can informally separate.
A Dallas legal separation may include a court ruling on certain issues like:
- the division of property;
- child custody; and
- other issues normally addressed in a divorce.
During a trial separation, the couple decides to live apart for a period of time. This gives them the opportunity to decide if they want to separate permanently, get divorced or reconcile the marriage. Assets remain marital property.
Another option is a permanent separation. Again, it’s not legally recognized in the state of Texas. But some people choose this over divorce for religious or financial reasons. For instance, even though the couple has decided to not stay together, it may allow one spouse to remain on the other’s health plan.
There are other reasons it might make sense to remain legally married, even if permanently separated. Filing joint returns provides tax benefits for some couples. Also, it may allow for the retention of certain military or Social Security benefits.
Although Texas doesn’t recognize a legal separation, the couple may enter into a separation agreement. It can address some of the same decisions made in a divorce, such as alimony and division of assets. If the couple decides to end the marriage, that same agreement can carry over into the divorce.
What are some practical reasons for choosing separation or divorce?
Some couples decide to end a marriage without giving it a chance. By taking time apart, they can see if pursuing a divorce is their best option. During this time some couples seek counseling to try to work through issues in their marriage.
For some people, divorce may be prohibited or frowned upon in their religion. A separation allows the couple to maintain their religious beliefs. There are also couples who can’t live together, but they still love one another. These are just some of the reasons that couples might choose to separate temporarily or permanently.
But for others, it makes the most sense to divorce, this might be the case if:
- there is no chance at reconciliation;
- it’s a toxic relationship;
- there is abuse;
- it’s caused stress for the children; or
- for whatever reason the marriage just won’t work.
Dragging it on through a prolonged separation might not benefit anyone.
Should I seek legal advice if I am separating or divorcing?
No matter which path a couple chooses, it’s critical to protect your assets and your future. If deciding to separate, this doesn’t usually require help from an attorney. But if you want to draw up a legal separation agreement or you plan to divorce, it’s best to have legal representation. This is especially true when you have assets, property and/or children.
An attorney can further explain the differences between separation and divorce and guide you in making a decision that’s in your best interests. Call Warren & Migliaccio if you’re getting separated or divorced in Dallas: 888-584-9614.