Legal separation refers to when a married couple decides to live apart, but they do not get divorced at that time. Many couples use separation as a way to see if they can get some space and take some time away from each other to help restore their relationship, while other couples use it as a step on the way to divorce. Other couples use separation as a final outcome, living separately – but still married – for the foreseeable future.
Whichever situation you are in, it is important to review your case with an attorney. Our Houston legal separation attorneys help individuals in separation cases so they can make agreements to govern their finances, deal with child custody and support decisions, and set up potential divorce strategies as necessary. Call The Queenan Law Firm today at (817) 476-1797 to set up a confidential legal consultation and learn more about how our attorneys can help in your legal separation case.
Legal Separation Laws in Houston, TX
One of the first things you will see when researching legal separation in Texas is that it does not exist. Texas does not have any formal processes, forms, or registries for couples who are “legally separated,” but that doesn’t mean there is anything illegal about legal separation. Couples get separated all the time, they just do it informally. However, this can lead to many legal issues and later legal hurdles that you can overcome now by working with an experienced legal separation attorney.
How Do I File for Legal Separation in Houston?
Since there is no formal legal process for legal separation, there is nothing to file. If you and your spouse want to move out of the same house and start living separately, you can do so without filing any paperwork. Problems often arise in these situations when children are involved or when financial responsibilities become divided. A lawyer can help you manage these issues.
Separation Agreements in Houston, TX
Most couples going through a legal separation can form separation agreements to help govern their rights and responsibilities during the separation. Many couples will separate immediately when filing for divorce, so some sort of separation agreement or court decisions governing a separated couple are common in Houston. Our lawyers can help draft agreements that will help with your particular situation.
Many elements of a divorce are actually handled on a temporary basis at the separation stage and then reviewed again at the finalization of the divorce. This means that if a couple is going to be separated but not divorced, there are still legal issues to resolve in the following areas:
Texas is a “community property” state that treats all property and assets acquired between marriage and separation as shared property. This property is usually divided fairly at the time of divorce. However, couples can divide property earlier during separation, and they can firmly establish that money and property acquired after the date of separation are no longer “community property.”
If you and your spouse have shared children and you will be living in separate households, you can set up child custody agreements or get custody decided by the courts. If both parents will retain parental rights, you will have a “joint managing conservatorship” (joint custody) where both parents can continue to make decisions in their children’s lives. You could also set up joint physical custody and possession so that both parents get to spend time with the children living in their house. You could also set up visitation as an alternative, limiting the time one parent spends with the kids.
If one parent has custody more than the other and your assets are no longer shared, then it is important to set up child custody rules. Whether these come from an agreement or from the court, one parent can be made to pay to support your shared children while they live with the other parent.
If one spouse does not work or needs time to find a job or get job training to regain financial independence after the separation, then the other spouse might be asked to continue to support them – often temporarily. You can agree to pay or receive alimony or spousal support payments through a separation agreement, but the court might also be able to order support. If you are to be separated while a divorce is pending, alimony pendente lite can be ordered on a temporary basis in many cases to help the recipient get back to financial independence.
Other terms will also be important in separation agreements. Texas allows fault-based divorces, which means spouses can sue for divorce based on things like adultery. If you and your spouse intend to see other people during your separation, it is important to make it clear in a separation agreement that his is permitted so that your spouse does not file for divorce based on adultery. Divorces can also be filed based on the grounds that the couple has been separated for a long enough period. If you and your spouse intend to use these grounds, then it is important to firmly establish your date of separation – which you can do in a separation agreement. Other aspects of your relationship, the management of jointly-owned property, and certain financial questions can also be handled through a separation agreement.
Call Our Houston Separation Attorney for Help with Your Separation or Divorce Case
If you and your spouse are seeking legal separation, The Queenan Law Firm’s Houston legal separation lawyers might be able to help. Although there is no official “legal separation” in Texas, spouses can move apart and live separately while staying married, whether that be a permanent solution, a temporary separation, or a step on the way to divorce. Talk to our attorneys today for help with your case and help making a separation agreement. Call our law offices today at (817) 476-1797 to set up a confidential case consultation.