Skip to main content

Alternatives to Legal Separation in Texas

Family, Divorce & Children

Texas does not have legal separation, so you need to protect your legal rights when you are not ready to divorce.

If you are not ready for a divorce but want to be separated from your spouse—no matter the reason—learn what to do to protect yourself through temporary orders, protective orders, SAPCRs (if there are children), or separation agreements. This article discusses all of your options to protect your legal rights when you separate from your spouse.

Can I get a legal separation instead of a divorce?

You cannot get a legal separation instead of a divorce in Texas. Texas law does not recognize legal separations. However, there are options that provide similar outcomes to what you might think of as a "legal separation."

In Texas you can use temporary orders, protective orders, suits affecting the parent-child relationship, or separation agreements to obtain many of the same goals as someone might want in a so-called legal separation.

All of these options are similar to a legal separation because they are ways to provide visitation, financial support, and property orders without getting a divorce, or before the divorce is finalized.

What do temporary orders do?

Temporary orders can cover many things—including who gets possession of the children, who gets what property, or who has to pay what bills—while the divorce is still ongoing.

To learn more about temporary orders, read Temporary Orders & Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs).

How is a protective order similar to legal separation?

A protective order, which is available to protect a victim of family violence, can be seen as similar to a legal separation because protective orders can dictate where children live and who has access to them. Protective orders can also determine who gets to stay in the house or who has to leave. They can also establish child and spousal support. Typically, protective orders expire after two years.

To learn more about protective orders, read the guide I need a protective order. with instructions and forms.

Do we have to get divorced to establish custody and support?

Filing a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) is another legal option that can be similar in practice to a legal separation.

A SAPCR is a custody case that is not part of a divorce case. A SAPCR can be a way to gain conservatorship, possession, or access to the child outside of a divorce. SAPCRs are often used to gain conservatorship of the child if you have never been married to the other parent.

To learn more about SAPCR cases, read and use the guide (SAPCR) I need a custody order. I am the child's parent with instructions and forms.

What happens if my spouse and I are separated but haven’t gotten an official divorce?

If you and your spouse are separated but have not gotten a divorce there can be financial consequences, because you are still legally married. For more information on the financial obligations of marriage and divorce, read Dividing Your Property and Debt in a Divorce.

What is a separation agreement?

A separation agreement is essentially a contract where spouses no longer live together but are not officially divorced. A separation agreement specifies the rights and duties of the parties while they are living apart. This concept is similar to a legal separation because it can set requirements for visitation, financial support, or property rights.

To form a valid separation agreement the specific terms should be in writing and signed by both parties. A separation agreement can be a cost-efficient and timely way of establishing visitation, financial, and property rights. However, this is a complicated process that should only be completed by a lawyer. Small mistakes can have grave consequences and you should hire a lawyer to write this agreement. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

Related Guides

  • I need a protective order.

    Protective Orders

    How to ask the court for protection from someone who has been violent or threatened to be violent.
  • I need a custody order. I am the child's parent (SAPCR).

    Child Custody & Visitation

    This guide tells you how to ask for a custody, visitation, child support, medical support, and dental support order.
  • Related Articles