As anyone who has been married for any length of time can verify, there are times when the relationship is working beautifully, the way a marriage should be, and there are the inevitable times when things aren’t going so well. Sometimes the situation can be bad enough and stressful enough that, for the sake of their sanity, their health, and for the sake of the marriage, both spouses feel that they need a timeout, some time away from each other to get their thoughts and emotions in order, to take an assessment of where they are at in life and what they want for the future, and to decide if they want to stay married. It’s a very critical time in a marriage, one that normally comes early in a relationship but sometimes later, and the results of the separation will determine the future of the marriage.
Formal and Informal Separation
Although the spouses want to live separate lives for a while, it’s very often the case that they’re not ready to take the final and more permanent step of obtaining a divorce. Many couples decide to do this on an informal basis, for example one spouse might choose to move in with a friend or family member for a while. The old cliche about the wife going to stay at her mother’s happens in real life quite frequently. They might also take the more serious step of moving into their own apartments. Whatever arrangements they decide to make, the husband and wife are still legally married, and their personal affairs, such as shared bank accounts, financial obligations, and their responsibilities to their children, are still intact as far as the law is concerned.
A legal separation, on the other hand, is a formal arrangement. To obtain a legal separation, the two parties must appear before a judge in a court of law, who must approve whatever arrangement the husband and wife have agreed to. As always whenever a situation winds up in a courtroom, it’s advisable for both spouses to be represented by an attorney who will work to ensure their client’s rights and interests are being protected.
A legal separation is simply a clarification of the responsibilities and obligations of the spouses during the period they are apart. Matters such as child custody and support, property division, financial debts, and shared accounts will be worked out by the parties involved, or their respective attorneys, and approved by the court. Any objections to these arrangements, if any still exist by the time the couple is standing before a judge, can be made when in court, and the judge will ultimately decide what the arrangement will be. In most cases, the agreement the couples have made before appearing before a judge won’t be objected to, and it’s simply a matter of the judge giving it his approval. Whatever the final outcome, it will be clarified in writing and officially recognized, and will be legally binding on both spouses.
Sometimes when a legal separation is sought, the couples intend to stay apart permanently, as they would in a formal divorce, but choose to stay married, usually for financial reasons such as tax benefits. This arrangement can go on indefinitely, but it should be noted that neither spouse can get married again while they are a party in a legal separation, or else they would be guilty of bigamy, a serious offense, especially in Texas.
Legal Separation in Texas
The state of Texas has no provisions for recognizing a legal separation. The marriage would have had to have happened in another state in order for the spouses to pursue one, in the state where they were actually married.
However, Texas does allow for couples to enter into a legal agreement concerning the division of their property, their financial obligations, child custody and support, spousal support, and any other arrangements they might decide to make. This is often done in Texas as a temporary measure while a married couple is waiting for a divorce to become final. If the court agrees to this arrangement, which it almost always will unless it believes on of the parties was coerced into the agreement or that some other extraordinary circumstance exists, it will be legally bound to recognize the agreement.
If a couple chooses to do this, each party should have an attorney assist them in working out the details. This will help to ensure that the court will approve the agreement without any difficulties.
Contact Brandy Austin Law Firm
If you find yourself in a marital situation where you feel that you need to be separated for a time, or if you’ve decided to pursue a divorce, contact us today, by email or phone, for a free consultation and to make sure that your rights are fully protected during the proceedings.