The short answer is… ‘No’.  The long answer is… ‘No’. Although legal separation is available and sometimes had in many states, Texas doesn’t have legal separation. In order to protect your interests regarding your property and your children if you are separated from your spouse, you must file for divorce and obtain temporary orders from the Court.

It is important to talk with a family law attorney before separating from your spouse. There are many options available that you may not even be aware of. Some of my clients were afraid they would have to leave their home and their children because they wanted the divorce.  You may not be required to leave. You may be able to stay in the home with your children and have the other spouse continue to pay for the expenses of the household. The only way you will know what options fit your family is to speak with an attorney that will listen to you and your goals.  It is better to know your options and have a plan before you take action than to try to work with what options might remain after you make those first moves.

Please note that during a separation, the State of Texas continues to identify certain things as community property.  Simply living separate from your spouse does not create separate property. Can you believe that I’ve had clients that were separated for 10 – 15 years. They were very deeply disappointed to find out that their pension, retirement accounts and savings account during that time of separation would be divided by the court and likely one-half of it all would be awarded to the other spouse that they have not resided with in 10 – 15 years.

Additional factors that occur during separation include additional children. Some people decide to continue their lives as if they had already been divorced. Additional children, additional assets, additional debt…. are all considerations that can delay and complicate a divorce after a long separation.

Do yourself a favor, talk to a family law attorney before you do anything.  Some options may include counseling and gathering information prior to filing for your divorce. First, you have to have a plan. Hoping for the best is NOT a plan!

Protect yourself and don’t rely on the advice of neighbors, family members, or things you hear on TV or see on the Internet.  Get the right advice and direction from a family law attorney today.  You and your family are unique. This is what we do!

So, unless you want to be separated from more of your assets, more of your belongings, and more of your hard-earned money, you need to file for divorce and get court orders.  Do not remain separated for a long period of time without these steps.  Remember ….the closure a divorce can provide allows you to begin the rest of your Life!

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If you’re interested in knowing how much money people really make and how they really spend it, you’d love my job. I’m an expert on what people in different professions earn, and I have an easy familiarity with the borrowing and spending habits of my fellow Dallas-Area dwellers of every socio-economic stripe. Within ten minutes of meeting with a new client I know how much he and his wife earn; by the end of the consultation I know how much they spend or save, whether they pool their money or keep it separate, how much debt they have, and whether these very subjects are related to the reason they are getting divorced.

Isn’t it interesting how taboo these subjects still are? I don’t know how much my closest friends earn, how much they have saved, or what balances, if any, they carry on their credit cards. I would never think of asking them. In contemporary American society, we continue to abide by a widely accepted social norm that this information is private. Surprising, given the almost complete disintegration of barriers which previously prevented people from talking about sex and intimate relationships. People think nothing of walking down a crowded sidewalk talking into their cell phones about the graphic details of a sexual encounter or a medical condition, but did you ever hear someone talking on a cell phone in a public place about the amount of the bonus she just got? I haven’t.

I actually think it’s a big relief to my clients to be able to discuss the particulars of their financial circumstances with me, and to express their fears. There are lots of people they can talk to about their disintegrating marriage, the reasons for it, and the pain they and their children are experiencing. However, they don’t sit down with those family members and friends to review bank statements, mortgage balances, or tax returns; they don’t talk about the nuts and bolts of what a divorce really is, at its most basic: an economic transaction.

The fears are rampant! It amazes me how consistently – with some exceptions, of course – people spend whatever is available to them, and perceive themselves to be in difficult financial positions regardless of income level. For instance, the couple with a combined income of $500,000 might have nothing but an expensive house, mortgaged to the max, retirement funds they can’t touch, and a checking account. No savings at all, and no clear idea about how to make lifestyle changes to enable that considerable income stream to support the family when divided between two households.  Sometimes there is a total disconnect between perception and reality. Like the client with tremendous inherited wealth who is terrified at the prospect that she might have to ever spend any principal, because in her family of origin, the standard was that one should be able to live entirely off the income from one’s stock portfolio, so as to preserve it for the next generation.

Maybe if we felt freer to talk about money, we’d be able to think about it with less anxiety and more realism. I don’t see any signs we’re moving in that direction, but we can each start our own movement to a better place by starting talking about the money and the debts.  Sticking your head in the sand only exposes your assets!

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