What Is Legal Separation?

Legal Separation

When experiencing marital issues, many couples will decide to live apart for a while instead of filing for divorce. Taking a step back, commonly referred to as a “cooling off” period, can help couples work through their differences and achieve resolution on their own or with the help of a marriage counselor.

Unfortunately, if this “cooling off” period doesn’t work, ending the marriage may be the only solution. At this point, a couple has a couple of options. Some may opt for divorce while others decide to legally separate (live apart permanently without getting a divorce).

Legal Separations in Texas

Unlike Texas, some states allow couples to legally separate instead of getting a divorce. After a formal court order has been filed, these couples will exist in a gray area as “separate individuals” within the marriage.

Even as the judge makes financial decisions, each spouse is legally allowed to spend their personal income to acquire property independently. From the moment they are labeled as legally separated, neither spouse is responsible for any debts accrued by the other.

Are you preparing to end a marriage in Texas? Call the Law Office of Nancy Perry Eaton, PLLC at (254) 221-8588 or contact us online today to discuss your case with an experienced Killeen divorce attorney.

What Happens to Community Property After a Couple Separates?

Although legal separations are accepted in other states, they are not recognized in the state of Texas. Couples are either married or divorced.

This is crucial to understand because Texas is a community property state, meaning that a couple’s community property (assets acquired during the marriage) will be split between both spouses if they choose to divorce. Community property, commonly referred to as marital property or jointly owned property, can include various items, such as:

  • Income
  • Real estate properties
  • Retirement accounts
  • Cars
  • Businesses
  • Investments
  • Bank or credit union accounts
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Recreational vehicles (such as boats, ATVs, or campers)
  • Non-titled personal property (such as collectibles, jewelry, artwork, or antiques)

Because Texas doesn’t legally recognize any type of separation, all rules applying to marriage continue even after a couple separates. Throughout the divorce proceedings, anything a couple owned during the marriage will continue to belong to them both.

So, even if you’ve been separated from your partner for years or even decades, your spouse will still be legally entitled to half of your assets if either of you decides to file for divorce.

What Is an Agreement Incident to Divorce (AID)?

While Texas doesn’t recognize legal separations, the state does acknowledge an Agreement Incident to Divorce (AID). This document is a rare but useful legal tool that allows Texans to maintain privacy in a divorce.

The agreement permits couples to fine-tune how they want to handle divorce-related disputes, such as child custody and visitation, alimony, and property division. Once both spouses are satisfied with the agreement, they may sign the Agreement Incident to Divorce to make it a legally enforceable part of the divorce settlement.

The document is not filed with the court, so it’s also handy if you don’t want your divorce terms to become public record.

Why Couples Choose to Legally Separate Instead of Divorce

So, why would a couple opt for a legal separation rather than simply file for divorce? In a legal separation, the marriage is never legally terminated; however, in a divorce, the marriage is no longer valid in the eyes of the law.

There are various reasons why a couple may see fit to pursue a legal separation in lieu of a traditional divorce, such as:

  • Some religions do not recognize divorce. Some couples may find it difficult to obtain a divorce due to certain religious affiliations.
  • Couples opt to live separate lives while staying together for children. Spouses may opt to occasionally live in the same house to maintain a sense of continuity and unity as a family.
  • Couples wish to keep their current insurance as a married unit. Some forms of insurance, such as health insurance, may be easier for spouses to get and maintain if they stay married (for example, if one spouse is insured through an employer).
  • Couples don’t want to file for divorce due to personal reasons. In some cases, a couple may simply not want to live together, but don’t wish to get divorced, either. This is common among older couples and spouses who may not think a divorce is worth the hassle, whether it be legal fees or emotional costs.

Compassionate Legal Counsel for Texas Families in Need

When making life-altering decisions for yourself and your family, you need legal representation you can trust. That’s why our compassionate divorce attorneys at the Law Office of Nancy Perry Eaton, PLLCare here to help. With over three decades of legal experience, you can count on our firm to guide your next steps wisely and with integrity.

Our Texas firm believes that every client is deserving of high-quality legal representation. We're committed to supporting you in every aspect of your case both in and out of the courtroom and take pride in offering flexible office hours and quick response times to accommodate your family's unique needs.

Divorce can be stressful and time-consuming. It’s essential to secure legal representation from an experienced family law attorney to maximize your odds of obtaining a favorable outcome in court. Reach out to our office today to learn how our team can help you take the first step toward a brighter future.

If you’re preparing for divorce, it’s crucial to understand all the options available to you to make the best decision for your family. Call our firm at (254) 221-8588 or contact us online today to speak with a skilled Killeen family lawyer.

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