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Legal Separation in Texas

Texas does not recognize “legal separation," but steps can be taken for married people wanting to live apart without filing for divorce.

Options for Couples With Children

When Texas couples who have children divorce the divorce action is actually two types of cases decided together, one that addressed issues relating to the children, called a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR), and one that provides for division of the parties assets and debts. A Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) essentially addresses three categories, the rights and duties of the parents, the children’s possession schedule and child support provisions. Technically, a married person with children could just file a SAPCR case to address only issues relating to the children. However, situations where a SAPCR action would provide for more than a short-term solution are limited and arguably would only be effective if both spouses do not want to pursue divorce. If one party to a SAPCR wants to divorce they can file for divorce and the SAPCR would be consolidated into the divorce action, so filing for divorce may be a better option.

The most common reason a party decides to file a SAPCR is because they have not lived in Texas for six months but want to file suit to establish the rights of the parties regarding the children. Once the six month domicile period passes, the party may then file a divorce action. If two actions are filed then the party must pay two filing fees.

An alternative to filing separate suits for parties that are uncertain about divorcing is to file a divorce action, agree or have the court set temporary orders and then allow the parties a cooling off period before proceeding with finalizing the divorce.

Texas allows for contractual separation agreements or property partition agreements which can provide for a property division similar to what parties may want to accomplish through “legal separation." These documents do assist clients that are ready for separation but not ready to divorce, but are not court orders and are enforceable only as contracts.

Options for Couples Without Children

Texas allows for contractual separation agreements or property partition agreements which can provide for a property division similar to what parties may want to accomplish through “legal separation." These documents do assist clients that are ready for separation but not ready to divorce, but are not court orders and are enforceable only as contracts.

If a party wants a court order to preserve the community estate then the party must file a divorce action. Once the petition for divorce is filed the parties may agree on or the court set temporary orders to control how the parties manage their assets and debts while separated. If the parties choose to, they may then take a cooling off period before proceeding with finalizing the divorce.

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