Ask a Divorce Lawyer: What’s the Legal Difference Between Separation and Divorce?
Not all couples wish to pursue divorce when they separate. Houston divorce lawyers can help you obtain something similar to a legal separation if you’re not seeking a divorce just yet, or potentially, ever.
Ask Houston Divorce Lawyers: What’s the Legal Difference Between Separation and Divorce?
Couples can separate without doing anything legal to terminate their marriage, split their property, decide custody of their children, and so on. If you and your partner decide to separate, this is not a legal thing. It just means you’re no longer in a romantic relationship, and you don’t live together anymore: but you are still legally bound through marriage, property ownership, and more.
A divorce, however, dissolves your marital relationship. You’ll typically split up your assets during the divorce, too, so you’ll no longer have shared accounts and properties. A divorce legally separates the two of you.
Is There Such Thing As a Legal Separation?
Texas courts do not recognize legal separations. The only way to fully legally separate yourself from your spouse is to get divorced. If that’s the option you wish to put pursue, then find out more about how you can contact a divorce attorney and why you should hire one.
Alternatives to Legal Separation
You can pursue a separation agreement that essentially states that you and your spouse no longer live together. It sets out each spouse’s duties while you’re living apart, such as the bills each must pay, the responsibilities each must take with the children, and so on. Your divorce attorney can go over a separation agreement with you and help you determine what must be outlined in it to work for your situation.
Protective orders can be used when one spouse separates from the other due to domestic violence or emotional abuse. A protective order lasts two years and sets out rules about who gets the house, where the children live, if you get spousal support, and more.
Temporary orders can be used before or during a divorce to determine temporary custody agreements, division of assets, and other things you’re working on settling during your divorce. If your divorce is going to be lengthy, then it would be a good idea to file a temporary order to help you sort things out before your divorce is finalized.
Who Should Seek Separation Rather Than Divorce?
Whether you get separated or divorced is entirely up to you. Still, there are several reasons a couple may choose to stay married while living separately and no longer recognizing a romantic relationship.
Spouses who no longer wish to be married but still want to work together or protect each other may wish to remain married for financial reasons. If you own a business together, own a lot of property that you both plan on using, or one of you has the other on their health plan, then you may wish to stay legally married.
This is a good option if you plan on maintaining a healthy relationship with your spouse. It will typically only work for spouses who separate amicably.
If ending a marriage would result in you losing Social Security or military benefits, then you may feel it’s a better idea for you to remain married but seek options similar to a legal separation. Once again, it’s best for spouses who separate amicably to pursue this option.
Some people may not wish to seek divorce as it’s against their religion. However, as the alternatives to legal separation listed above are different from divorce, they may still be an option for couples in this situation.
Many couples who separate live apart for several weeks or months before reconciling or before pursuing a divorce. This gives each party time to determine whether or not they want to pursue legal action or attempt to reconcile their relationship.
However, some parties may feel they should take more time apart, such as a substantial number of months or even years. Legal options similar to legal separation can help out in situations where the couple isn’t yet committed to getting divorced.
When Might Divorce Be Best?
Divorce is most likely the best option if there’s no chance you’ll reconcile, and the situations above don’t apply to you. It’s also best if your marriage was harmful to either party’s mental health, stressed out your children, or involved abuse of any kind.
The legal difference between separation and divorce is that with divorce, your marriage and legal ties to each other end. However, during a separation, you’re still married, but you live apart. You may also take steps to legally separate certain aspects of your lives. Contact a top Houston divorce attorney to help figure out which path may be best for you.