Unlike many other states, Texas does not recognize legal separations. If you are in an unhappy marriage, your options are to either get divorced or stay married. Nonetheless, there are ways to separate yourselves financially, define your roles as parents and live apart if you choose. While living separately won’t be the same as getting divorced – you will still be legally married and unable to remarry – time apart can offer certain advantages just the same.
Get a contractual separation
One way to protect yourself while separate-but-married is by entering into a contract with your spouse detailing the terms of your separation. Most things in life can be the subjects of legally binding contracts, with few exceptions such as contracts which contemplate illegal activity or where one party is coerced or otherwise forced to sign.
A contractual separation is no different from a post-nuptial or marital agreement in most respects. Topics generally included in a marital agreement are:
- Future wages
- Division of assets
- Division of debt
- Trusts and inheritances
- Distribution of death benefits
- Spousal support or alimony
The contract itself will not be reviewed or approved by a judge and no court orders will be issued. Your remedy, should your spouse breach the agreement, is to sue in civil court for enforcement of your contract.
Ask a family court to issue a SAPCR order
If you have minor children, it is in your family’s best interests to decide on a parenting plan and follow up in court with a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. This type of action requests court review and approval if you have agreed on a parenting plan, or asks the court to make the decisions for you if you are unable to agree. Either way, the court will issue a SAPCR order, which governs custody, visitation, child support and other issues affecting the children.
Seek a partition and exchange agreement
If you don’t feel comfortable with a contractual separation, marital or post-nuptial agreement, you can pursue a more formal separation of your financial affairs with a partition and exchange agreement. This type of agreement lets you each transfer marital property or a portion of it to a spouse so that the spouse gains a controlling ownership interest and the property is treated as separate property. This can be vitally important for separating your financial affairs because Texas is a community property state. Any property acquired during the marriage is considered joint property, with few exceptions.
A partition and exchange agreement must be signed by both spouses and recorded in the county where the spouses last lived as husband and wife and in the county where the property is located, if different.
An important note of caution is that if you decide to do a separation and exchange agreement and in the future decide to get back together, the agreement must be undone or it will remain in full force and effect, despite your reconciliation.
Call for separation or divorce help
At Peterson Law Group, our experienced family law attorneys review your situation, explain the law and help you plan a course of action to protect yourself and your children. Let us use our experience to help you achieve the best outcome possible. To schedule a consultation, call us today at 979-703-7014 or visit us online to request a meeting.