If you and your spouse have agreed to live separately but are not yet ready to divorce, it is wise to formalize your agreements with each other to the extent possible. Creating a written separation agreement could ensure both parties are clear about how they will handle marital assets and debts, whether one party will receive spousal support during the separation, and who will provide a home for any minor children.

A Missouri City separation agreement lawyer could consult with you to ensure you have considered all legally relevant issues concerning the split. They could then draft a contract setting forth the agreement. As soon as you and your spouse both sign the document, the agreement becomes legally enforceable. Reach out to a seasoned marital contracts attorney at Angela Faye Brown & Associates to learn more.

Contract Substitutes for Legal Separation

Texas does not recognize legal separation. For couples who have decided they cannot live together but do not wish to divorce, a separation agreement could fulfill the purpose of a legal separation.

Like a pre-nuptial agreement or any other marital agreement, a separation agreement could document the parties’ wishes regarding property division, spousal support, child custody, and any other matter relevant to the couple’s decision. The law does not require a couple to have a separation agreement, but if they anticipate a divorce in the future, the agreement could govern their divorce settlement and ease the process.

It is critical for each party to have their own legal counsel review the document before signing. A knowledgeable separation agreements lawyer in Missouri City could explain the contract’s implications and ensure it will be enforceable.

Financial Provisions

Texas is a community property state. Any assets or debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage belong to both spouses. If a couple separates but does not divorce, any assets they gain or debts they incur continue to belong to the community estate. A separation agreement could describe how the couple plans to divide their existing community property and handle it going forward.

Community Property versus Individual Property

Couples should consider whether they want to continue to share ownership of property and debts they acquire after separation. They might decide that property or debts acquired after the separation date should be considered individual property, not community property. A separation contract could make such a decision legally enforceable.

Division of Community Property

Separation agreements also could establish how the couple wishes to divide their community property. Texas divorce law calls for an equitable distribution of community property, with each person leaving the marriage with assets of roughly equal value. However, courts will enforce a couple’s decision to deviate from that scenario if each spouse entered the agreement voluntarily and had legal advice.

Spousal Support

Courts do not always award alimony, but when they do, the length of the marriage is a factor that influences the amount of alimony and how long a spouse will receive it. A couple could include provisions for spousal support in a separation agreement. If they choose not to, they should agree on whether the length of the marriage should be calculated to the date of separation or the date of a divorce filing.

An experienced Missouri City separation contracts attorney could explain how the law defines and divides community property in greater detail during an initial meeting.

Arrangements Regarding Children

Parents who separate could use a separation agreement to document their decisions regarding child custody, child support, and visitation. A detailed parenting plan could ease the family’s transition into the separation and serve as a template should the couple later divorce.

While courts will generally enforce provisions a couple included in a separation agreement, the court scrutinizes provisions relating to children. Texas Family Code §153.02 requires any agreement affecting child custody, support, or visitation to further the children’s best interest.

If a judge finds that a provision of a separation agreement pertaining to children does not support the children’s best interest, they could decline to enforce it and substitute a different arrangement. A skilled separation contract lawyer in Missouri City could advise a couple about the factors a court is likely to consider when determining a child’s best interest.

Work With a Missouri City Separation Agreements Attorney

Separating from a spouse could be a difficult transition, but it could be easier if you both know what to expect. Negotiating a detailed separation agreement could help you redefine your relationship and provide stability for your children.

Consult a Missouri City separation agreements lawyer for help formalizing your wishes. Call now to schedule an appointment with one of the capable attorneys at Angela Faye Brown & Associates.