Sometimes a separation is the best option for initiating divorce proceedings, particularly under circumstances where the stress in the family home is through the roof. Unlike most states, Texas does not recognize legal separation, which means most separated couples will initiate divorce proceedings. Nevertheless, couples do have options if they choose to live apart before divorce.
The couple can begin the divorce process with a contractual separation, which is a form of post-marital agreement. An alternative to temporary orders (which are issued by a judge after a special hearing), contractual separation enables the two sides to split apart with an understanding of how arrangements will be handled as the separation and/or divorce proceeds. This arrangement can also provide the couple with a break to seek counseling, gain perspective or even put the marriage back together.
Other important agreements
Regardless of the objectives in the separation, couples need to consider the following:
Custody and parenting plans: Couples can create a voluntary agreement or they can get a court order by filing a "Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship" and getting an agreed order signed by both parties and the Court.
Partition and exchange agreements: These can be short term or ongoing, but the assets that are martial property can be partitioned, ideally in a way that reflects how the assets would be divided in a divorce. Once these agreements are signed, divorce courts cannot change them. These are another form of post-marital agreement provided for in the Texas Family Code.
This process can be personalized
Divorce is a complicated process under the best of circumstances. Those couples who choose these unique kinds of arrangements here in Texas would be wise to seek out the advice of an experienced Board-Certified Family Law expert who works in Collin County, Dallas County or Denton, as well as elsewhere in the state, who can provide knowledgeable legal assistance to ensure that a client's legal, marital and parental rights are protected to the full extent of the law.