A Separation Agreement Is Similar to Legal Separation in Texas

Actors Dan Aykroyd and Donna Dixon announced their separation after nearly 40 years of marriage in late April 2022. Their joint announcement specifically said they would remain married and continue to be co-parents and business partners.

Not all couples choose divorce when their lives take divergent paths. A legal separation is an option that couples use in the U.S. when they do not want to end their marriage, but do not want to live together either. Technically still married, these couples can enjoy many of the rights and privileges of marriage while living separately.

Texas does not recognize legal separation. Spouses can certainly choose to live separately without divorcing, but an informal agreement between them is not enforceable.

Texas is joined by the following states not recognizing legal separation:

  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi
  • Pennsylvania

There are, however, other legal options such as temporary orders that are enforceable and can serve similar purposes as a legal separation.

Temporary Orders Cover Matters Found in Divorce

Divorce has universal elements that must be resolved. The details are unique to the couple. How long the couple has been married, their financial status, whether they have children, and other aspects determine how those divorce matters are decided.

A temporary order such as a separation agreement can iron out the same issues:

Temporary orders can identify which spouse has exclusive use of the house, how bills will be paid, and when each parent spends time with their children. Concerns about health insurance, pension plans, and tax issues can also be resolved in a separation agreement. Basically, any divorce matter can be addressed.

Couples often use temporary orders as a framework while working through a divorce. Should you choose to eventually divorce, these orders will simplify the process. These agreements can be used indefinitely as a couple attempts to repair their marriage as well as when they want to live separately without formally divorcing.

Partition and exchange agreements can be created to specifically address property. This agreement allows the spouses to legally change community property (marital) to separate property. Homes, cars, furniture, and debt can be assigned to one spouse or the other.

Partition and exchange agreements also streamline the legal case should a divorce occur later. Texas is a community property state where marital property is generally split 50/50. Fewer assets will be considered community so much of the complexity is removed.

One consequence to keep in mind is these agreements remain in effect even if you reconcile.

To be legally enforceable, a judge must sign off on the agreements. Texas Family Code Section 4.006 details when premarital and marital property agreements are unenforceable:

  • The party did not sign the agreement voluntarily.
  • The party was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party.
  • The party did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided.
  • The party did not have, or reasonably could not have had, adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party.

A properly executed separation agreement is legally binding and can be enforced through civil litigation.

Legal Counsel for Binding Temporary Orders

Our legal team at the Law Offices of Mark M. Childress helps spouses permanently dissolve their marriage through divorce or stay legally married with temporary orders. Both avenues have their advantages and consequences. What is best for your family depends on your goals.

We are resourceful and experienced, two traits that help us formulate creative strategies that work toward your desired outcome. You can expect personal and thoughtful legal advice and attention from us.

If you wonder whether temporary orders are right in your situation, talk to one of our attorneys. We have offices in Fort Worth, Southlake, and Arlington. Call (817) 497-8148 or complete our online form to get started.

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