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Options When Divorce is Not an Option
August 4, 2014
Unlike many other states, there is no such thing as a “legal separation” in Texas. In Texas, you are either married or not.
Despite this fact, many people hold specific religious, cultural and/or moral beliefs that prohibit their consideration of a divorce. How can we protect those people and allow them to follow the tenets of their convictions without forcing them to acquiesce to a legal system that does not fit their beliefs.
When finances are the impetus for wanting to separate from a spouse, one very useful tool is a post-nuptial agreement.
Similar to a Pre-Nup, a post-nuptial agreement defines and clarifies how finances will be handled between you and your spouse. While a post-nuptial agreement may seem extreme or unromantic, it can oftentimes end the unending-arguments you and your spouse suffer when fighting over how to handle money. While we all naturally seek to avoid having to pay for legal services, the cost to prepare a post-nuptial agreements can be insignificant when compared to the financial cost of a divorce, which inevitably necessitates the expense of maintaining two separate households, two sets of clothing for the children, two policies of car or health insurance (and the legal fees to get you there via divorce). As such, the “cost” of a post-nuptial agreement is a small price to pay to reach the peace of mind (and peaceful household) the couple has wanted but is no longer able to because of their arguments about how their money should be managed or spent. This is an ideal tool for couples who genuinely love and respect each other and want to stay together (without fighting), as well as for those who want to stay together for their children’s sake but are afraid of the financial consequences of keeping their money together when they can’t see eye-to-eye on their finances.
When children are involved, parents are also not without options. In Texas, spouses have the ability to determine their respective parenting rights without having to go through a formal legal divorce. The tool for this is known as an Order Affecting Parent-Child relationship.
Just as a “custody order” or child support order is enforceable for families that have been legally divorced, the Order Affecting Parent-Child Relationship is also enforceable, without having to go through an unwanted divorce. It sets forth each parent’s right to make decisions for the children (including the ability to continue to make joint decisions), as well as each parent’s right to have time with the children and each parties’ obligations in terms of financially supporting their children now and into the future. This allows the couple the option to separate without having to be formally divorced, yet protects their most precious assets, their relationship with their children.