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legal separation

Legal separation is a legally recognized status in some states in which the spouses’ act of separating or living apart has legal consequences and changes the spouses’ rights and responsibilities. In some states the legal separation process is supervised by the court, which issues court orders for the parties to follow during their legal separation.

And in some states the spouses may enter into a written separation agreement that defines their rights and responsibilities during the separation period. Some states even require spouses to be separated for some period of time (e.g., one year) before they are able to divorce.

But some states—including Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas—do not recognize legal separation, and the spouses are married, with the same rights and responsibilities, until they are divorced.

Laws regarding legal separation vary from state to state and are usually located in a state’s statutes—often in the family or domestic relations code.

In Texas, there is no formal legal status known as 'legal separation,' unlike some other states where legal separation can be recognized and regulated by the court system. This means that in Texas, couples cannot seek a court order for legal separation, and there are no state statutes that govern legal separations. Spouses in Texas remain legally married with all the attendant rights and responsibilities until they obtain a divorce. While Texas law does not recognize legal separation, couples may still live apart and can enter into separation agreements that outline the division of assets, child custody, and other arrangements. However, such agreements are not court-supervised legal separations and do not change the legal status of the marriage. To end a marriage in Texas, a divorce must be filed and finalized through the court system.

Legal articles related to this topic

Is Legal Separation Different from Divorce?
While legally divorcing is often seen as the only choice when ending a marriage, some states also allow you the option of legal separation as an alternative to divorce.