Some couples find themselves at a crossroads, and, while they do not want to legally end their marriage, they do not want to stay together, either. As such, they decide to separate. While there is no such thing as a “legal separation” in Texas, there are measures parties can take to protect their interests during a separation, like entering into a separation agreement. Even if a couple’s decision to separate is amicable, they should not attempt to forge an agreement without the assistance of an attorney, as they may unwittingly waive important rights. If you and your spouse wish to separate, it is advisable to contact a lawyer to evaluate what measures you can take to protect your interests. The dedicated Dallas divorce lawyers of McClure Law Group can assess your circumstances and inform you of the best options available to you.Texas Law Regarding Separation Agreements
Texas does not recognize legal separations. In other words, while a married couple may choose to live separately, if they want to legally modify their relationship status, they must file for a divorce. They can formulate separation agreements, however, which are essentially contracts between two parties that intend to lead separate lives but remain married. In many ways, separation agreements are akin to other marital contracts in that they allow parties to establish their rights and obligations, such as “post-marital” or “post-nuptial” agreements. As such, they can provide many of the same benefits afforded via legal separation in other states, just through different avenues.Considerations When Drafting Separation Agreements
While a couple that separates does not necessarily need to enter into an agreement or define the terms of their separation, failing to do so can have detrimental consequences. For example, Texas is a community-property state, which means that any assets or debts either spouse acquires during the course of a marriage – even while separated – are considered the property of each spouse, with few exceptions. Should the parties eventually divorce, all community property is subject to division in a manner the court deems “just and right.” Notably, this includes assets the couple obtains after they decide to live apart. To avoid an unjust outcome, couples that separate can enter into contracts in which they agree that any income, property, or debts incurred after the date of separation are their respective separate property rather than community property.
Similarly, parties can employ separation agreements to define their rights with regard to spousal maintenance. While Texas courts rarely grant such maintenance, when they do, the duration of a maintenance obligation is often based, in part, on how long the marriage lasted. Thus, if a couple separates but does not divorce for several years, it can impact whether spousal maintenance is granted, and if so, for how long. Couples can negotiate whether either party is eligible to receive spousal maintenance, or, if they cannot agree on that issue, whether the date of separation or the date of the filing of a petition for dissolution should be used for calculating maintenance obligations should they decide to divorce.
Separation agreements are sometimes used to define property rights, child-custody rights, and child-support obligations. The courts will generally uphold separation agreements if they are deemed valid contracts as defined by Texas law. It is important to note, however, that any provisions pertaining to children will not be upheld unless a court determines they are in the best interest of the child(ren) involved. Thus, if you choose to address issues related to child custody or child support, you do so with the understanding that these provisions may end up being unenforceable altogether.Contact a Skillful Dallas Lawyer
Relationships are often complicated, and, for a variety of reasons, some people dealing with marital challenges do not want to divorce, but do not want to remain together either. It is smart for anyone who wants to separate from their spouse to talk to an attorney about formulating a separation agreement to safeguard their interests. The skillful Dallas lawyers of McClure Law Group have ample experience helping clients navigate the emotional and legal complexities of ending a relationship, and, if you retain our services, we will work diligently to help you strive for your desired outcome. We help parties with family-law issues in Dallas, Rockwall, Fort Worth, Frisco, Irving, McKinney, Richardson, and Garland. We also represent people in family-law cases in cities in Dallas, Rockwall, Collin, Denton, Tarrant, and Grayson Counties. You can reach us via our online form or by calling 214.692.8200 to set up a meeting.