Saturday, January 17, 2015

How to legally separate in the State of Texas

How To Get  A Legal Separation in the State of Texas

While many states around the country typically address the issue of legal separation, Texas statutes do not define the circumstances surrounding this concept.  

Therefore, as an individual wanting to achieve a legal separation in Houston, this can present challenges and a dilemma about the best way to proceed.

Although Texas does not recognize legal separation, there are steps that you can take if you wish to live apart from your spouse without officially filing for divorce.  A divorce in the State of Texas actually will decide two separate types of cases at the same time.  The first is the community property division case and the other is known as a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.  While you could simply file a SAPCR case and stay married, you might end up having to go through the same case in the future if you did decide to get divorced. 

Another option for parties who are unsure about whether they wish to divorce but want to live separately is to file a divorce action and agree to have the court put forth temporary orders.  At this point, the court would allow a cooling off period during which parties have to decide whether they wish to divorce or not.  How long can you have to decide if you want to finish the divorce? It depends on your county.  For example, in Harris County usually the court's computer will issue a "trial date" within one year of filing the divorce.  In Fort Bend County the court's computer does not issue a trial date so a divorce in that county can be on file over 2-3 years without any problems. 

You also may be able to set up a contractual separation agreement or agreements regarding division of property, and this may help to address situations where you’re ready for separation but not interested in official divorce.  These are enforceable only as contracts and should not be considered court orders, however.  Mediation may also help to address issues like temporary plans if parties wish to think about their next steps before moving forward with the divorce.  As you can see, there are options for handling these situations.

If both parties are getting along, perhaps a Temporary Mediated Settlement Agreement to outline how the parties will live during their separation will be enough.  

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