Married, divorced, or separated. These are the marital statuses that you often will hear people ask about in several different settings. It could be that you hear the question asked in a movie or television show. Or you may hear that asked of you when you are completing a form or trying to apply for a loan or something similar. There are a lot of different reasons why a person may be asked about their marital status, but those three options are the ones that you hear asked about most often.
In Texas, you can be separated from your spouse physically, but we do not have a legal status known as “separated” here. Rather, you and your spouse are married until death, divorce, or annulment. Of those three options divorce is the one that we write about most frequently here on the blog for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We think that it is important to share with you some information on what you can do if you think a separation is best for you and your family at this time. Physically separating yourself from your spouse means that you are taking a definitive step toward ending your marriage. Make no mistake, when you separate yourself from your spouse you are doing so to make a point or push your marriage in a certain direction.
Even if you are not yet ready to get a divorce it is wise to consider your rights in connection with a separation. There are a wide range of options for you to consider. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan know that if you feel uncertain about what next steps you should take it is crucial that you be provided with information to help you make good choices. Whether you are a prospective client or a current client of ours, we want to provide information and teach you about the law and how it interacts with your specific circumstances. Then you can consider all the alternatives available and then make decisions that are in your best interests.
Is there such a thing as s legal separation in Texas?
Many states in the USA do have legal separations but Texas is not one of them. A status where you are still married but inching towards a divorce is not a reality for Texans. However, you can pursue certain options that would put you in a position where you are something close to legally separated from your spouse. Most of the time when a spouse is concerned with rights relative to a separation situation is when children are involved. Trying to protect your children and your rights to those children is a reasonable goal to have in a situation like this. Nobody wants to make decisions that are going to harm your relationship with your child. As a result, the situation can get tricky once you learn that there is no legally separated status in Texas.
When you choose to physically separate yourself from your spouse then you need to consider what is next. Jumping into a decision like this should not necessarily be one that you do before thinking through your options and determining what is the best course of action for you to take. Of course, if you find yourself in a situation where your physical well-being is in danger then all bets are off and you need to make decisions based on this. However, in many other situations, you can stop to think through your options before pursuing one that involves moving out of the marital house with your children alongside you.
Let’s think about legal separation in terms of what is the most important when it comes to your children. Children rely upon certain things to live- whether you and your spouse are happy in your marriage, or not. While your children would prefer that their parents are in a productive, happy, and sustainable marriage this is not something that they would probably put in front of their ability to eat. It is strange to think about the situation in terms like this, but your children need certain things to survive. Taking on a separation without thinking about its impact on your children is a mistake. The last thing you want to do is put them in a situation where their well-being is compromised just because you and your spouse are not happy with each other at the moment.
One of the options that you can consider if you are determined to physically separate yourself from your spouse are temporary orders. Temporary orders offer you the ability to perform a wide variety of functions related to family law issues for your minor children. Were you to file for divorce from your spouse temporary orders would be something that you would be faced with making decisions upon very early in your case. The same can be said in a situation where you have not filed for divorce, but are considering a separation from him or her. Temporary orders are what the name indicates- orders that have an expiration date, potentially, but otherwise serve to establish certain rights and duties for you and your spouse concerning your children and other subjects in your marriage. That you can establish temporary orders in a case where there has been no divorce filed may come as something of a surprise. It certainly isn't a majority of temporary orders in Texas that are established as a result of separation versus as part of a divorce, but it is an option for you to consider, nonetheless.
Temporary orders can help you and your spouse answer the question of who gets the kids and when. This is otherwise known as possession in the world of Texas family law. Possession of your children has probably not been an issue for you and your spouse to this point in your marriage. Given that you and your spouse lived together, you could see your children whenever you wanted to since they lived in the home, as well. Now that you and your spouse are going to separate from one another there is ample opportunity for the two of you to try and work out some sort of agreement on how to share the children. Possession orders within a temporary order help to establish a predictable schedule of possession for the two of you. This is not only beneficial for both of you as you attempt to sort out any marital problems that you may be experiencing but also to help your children ease into a world where they do not live with both of their parents.
Aside from issues regarding your children, there are other, practical, concerns to have in a time where being able to pay bills, budget, and otherwise maintain some sense of financial stability can otherwise seem like a pipedream. Many times, when people separate during a marriage it can be done out of frustration or emotion. Something that your spouse said was either so egregious in and of itself or was a “straw that broke the camel’s back” type last straw that the only decision that seemed reasonable to you was to walk out of the house with the kids and not look back. Whether a divorce was going to be seriously considered may be a discussion for another day. However, now you believed that putting the marriage on “pause” and leaving the home was the best decision for all parties involved.
The rest of your life is going to press onward regardless of whether you and your spouse have your financial circumstances stabilized during this separation. Bills are still going to come due. The mortgage needs to be paid. Work hours will remain the same. Kids' tuition, utilities, property taxes, etc. do not get paused just because your marriage has reached a point where separation appears to be the only choice that you have. Temporary orders during a separation can be treated like temporary orders in a divorce. You and your spouse are given marching orders that can establish responsibilities for the basic bills and other costs that are incurred in households across the State of Texas.
Temporary orders can also establish possession of the property in your marriage. The more property that you and your spouse own, the more essential it is that you both can come up with a plan for who is going to live where who is going to use what vehicle, and how other property issues are going to be sorted out. This does not mean that you must think of a plan for how your house could be sold or anything like that. It is premature to try to get anything in writing on a subject like that as you head into a separation. However, thinking critically about who stays in the house and who moves out is completely reasonable. Once you decide where property is going to end up you can think more clearly about who is going to pay what bills and things of this nature.
What is a protective order and why could it be relevant in a separation scenario?
Protective orders can act as a kind of family law order due to their being able to assess possession schedule and establish conservatorship rights and duties concerning your children. We have already talked about how getting these issues into writing can be extremely important during a separation situation if you have minor children. This can be done both in connection with temporary orders as well as with a protective order. Protective orders, at their core, seek to protect you and your children from future incidents of family violence when your spouse has been acting violently or erratically before. In this way, the closest that you and your spouse may be able to get when it comes to a legal separation in Texas is to have a protective order completed that can help you all to sort through the issues in your life while offering protection to you. You may be moving towards a divorce very quickly or may be holding out hope that reconciliation can occur between you and your spouse. Considering how reconciliation may need to take some time if violence has been present in the home, then it could make a great deal of sense to try to push for a protective order so that you can stay safe, work towards that reconciliation and establish norms and orders for the time being, as well.
A protective order can bar your spouse from your residence while also ensuring that he is obligated to help pay or contribute towards household bills. As you consider your options on how to move forward regarding your marriage, understand that the protective order can prevent your spouse from getting near your home, your place of work, or your child's school. Instead of adjusting your strategy on these subjects frequently depending on that day's situation, you can choose to make protective order which can set forth something more stable and consistent for all parties involved. If you feel uncertain about where to begin while you are on this path, please feel free to contact one of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan's attorneys for a free-of-charge consultation.
Support of your children is crucial during this time. A protective order can also set forth child support for your spouse to pay to you regarding the day-to-day expenses of your children. For any of you reading this blog post today, I understand that the costs of parenting can vary a great deal across households. In a protective order environment, you can consider your specific circumstances when you attempt to work out a plan that can lead to the children being provided for while you try to figure out the next, best thing for you and your family.
Temporary spousal support is not only for a divorce situation. While there are stringent requirements when it comes to establishing spousal support after a divorce, you and your spouse are free to come up with any kind of arrangement you would like for the period of your divorce or even during a separation. The main difference when it comes to spousal support and child support is that child support is a well-documented subject as far as what is contained in the Texas Family Code. There are, for example, child support guidelines outlined in the Texas Family Code which gives parents a jumping-off point for establishing support for the kids during a divorce or child custody case.
The same cannot be said for spousal support. Spousal support during the divorce has more to do with the specific circumstances of your case which may vary widely across the spectrum of separation/divorce circumstances in our state. The household expenses that are responsible for, your work status, employment history, and earning potential are all factors that are unique to you. As a result, how spousal support is negotiated in a separation scenario is something that you will need to sort out with your spouse. Whether it is appropriate in the first place usually ends up means that you and your spouse will need to crack open the books and see what is needed to keep the house afloat. Guessing is not an especially productive means of achieving this goal. If you are serious about asking your spouse for spousal support, then you should do your homework and then report back to your spouse with what you found. It may be that you and your spouse have wildly different perspectives on this subject.
Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship
Finally, rather than filing for divorce immediately it may make sense for you and your spouse to consider filing a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, instead. A SAPCR is a child custody case, for lack of a better phrase. This is another way for you and your spouse to mimic the effects of a legal separation even though there is no direct analog here in Texas. While a SAPCR is usually filed in Texas concerning a child whose parents are not married it is also a tool that married people can use during a trial separation.
Issues like conservatorship, possession, child support, and visitation can all be breached in conjunction with a SAPCR. This is a great option to pursue if you want to try and work out a way for you and your spouse to stay married. However, bear in mind that the longer you and your spouse are living separately from one another that increases the chances of financial problems that could result from you all not paying attention to their finances as closely as you otherwise might. Debt is also an issue for divorce cases and should be a subject that you strongly consider the risk of when you are pondering whether a separation is right for you and your spouse at this moment in time.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.