Each couple needing to separate, and both members of each couple, have their own reasons for making a change. It can be hard for marriage laws to anticipate all of those complicated needs and goals, and states have different ways of trying to tackle the problem.
Unlike many other states, Texas has no law specifically allowing for what other states call a “legal separation.” Such arrangements have some advantages of an informal “trial separation,” some advantages of a full-fledged divorce, and often the disadvantages of both.
A bit like marriage and a bit like divorce
In a legal separation, you remain legally married, but a court helps decide certain rules governing the separation much as it does in a divorce, and it can enforce those decisions.
Couples who think they may reconcile may want a legal separation, since staying married is much simpler than divorcing and then getting married again. Legal separations can also retain a spouse’s health care, financial and medical next-of-kind status, survivor property rights, and more.
On the other hand, legal separations can also permit features of a divorce such as court-enforced child-support and visitation rights, alimony, and property division arrangements.
Approximating legal separation in Texas
While couples in other states can permanently remain in a condition between marriage and divorce, it’s “either in or out” in Texas. However, various provisions allow marriages to take a little time to legally dissolve, or for couples to eventually decide to stay together after all. These provisions allow for certain circumstances resembling legal separation, at least for a while.
The court can order marriage counselling and take the counselor’s report into account to help decide how long the divorce should stay in a pending status.
Couples don’t have to be formally divorced before the court can issue a temporary order for the preservation of property. Also, while the divorce is still pending, the couple can sign formal, legally binding agreements about the rights and responsibilities of child custody and property ownership.