Trial Separation in Texas
In some states, a married couple can get an arrangement either judicially (through the courts) or privately to have provisions to regulate their lives while the parties are sorting out their lives. These orders or agreement can provide for child support and possession, use of property, or other “rules” to live by on a temporary basis. Texas does not have trial separation; but there are two things that are similar in some ways.
First, Texas law explicitly provides that a couple can have a marital property agreement.
That is, they can divide property and even convert separate property to community. You cannot have such an agreement as to children; only a court can do that.
A property agreement is tricky and sometimes has unintended consequences. Do the wrong thing and you might be severely disadvantaged if you later try to divorce. There also are standards for creating such a document and if they are not met, then the document may be invalid. There are certain disclosures that must be made and certain language that might support the validity of the document. There also might be serious tax consequences.
No one should try to partition property or create any other type of property agreement without the advice of an attorney.
The second thing that you can do in Texas that is similar to a trial separation is to establish temporary orders while the divorce is pending.
Once the divorce has been filed, the parties can agree on or ask the court to order “temporary orders.” These are very common. In this the court will designate who possesses what property (wife drives the Chevy, husband drives the Ford, husband lives in the house, wife runs the business, etc.) In addition, the court can, and does, provide for the children. The court will appoint one parent or both as managing conservators, give one the right to designate the primary residence of the child, set child support, make one parent pay for health insurance for the child and set a possession schedule for the parents to see the children.
One thing that courts frequently do is to set temporary spousal support. If one spouse makes measurably more than another, then he or she is likely to have to support the other spouse during the time that the case is pending. I will discuss this in detail in a future blog.
So, there may be no “trial separation” in Texas, but there are things that you can do if you need the protection of one.
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