A couple deciding between separation or divorce.

Separation vs Divorce: What is the Difference?

If you’re considering cutting ties with your spouse, you may be thinking through two options: separation or divorce. These terms are often used interchangeably but refer to two very different legal processes.

To help you weigh your options, we’ll break down the differences between separation vs divorce in Texas and how each option can affect you.

What is Separation in Texas?

While some states offer the option of legal separation and divorce, separation is not legally recognized in Texas. Instead of referring to a formal legal process, separation generally implies that a married couple no longer shares the same living space and has begun living separate lives.

While separation may be emotionally beneficial in some cases, it does not have any legal implications in Texas. As such, you will remain legally married. This means that you won’t receive any of the benefits associated with a formal divorce, such as receiving alimony (known as spousal maintenance in Texas) or an official record of the change in your marital status.

As a result, you can’t use separation to legally divide assets or seek child/spousal support. You also can’t use separation as grounds for changing your last name. Additionally, you and your spouse will still have the same authority to make medical or financial decisions on behalf of one another if an emergency arises.

If you’re looking for something less permanent or formal than a divorce because you aren’t sure if you’re ready to end the marriage officially, you may want to consider counseling or seeking other professional help.

This step can be helpful in resolving any marital issues that may be behind your decision. It can also help you determine if the marriage is worth saving or if divorce really is the best way forward.

What is Divorce in Texas?

Divorce is a legal procedure that terminates a marriage. With a divorce, the court issues an official document that states the marriage is over and that both parties are free to move on with their lives.

Depending on the circumstances, the document may include court orders regarding spousal support, child custody and support, and the division of assets and debts between the two parties.

When either party is set on permanently cutting ties with their spouse, a divorce is the only option that offers the legal protections and security required for this life transition. The outcome of a divorce is legally binding, meaning that both parties must abide by the court’s decision.

What Is the Divorce Process Like in Texas?

It’s important to understand the basics of the divorce process in Texas if this is your desired course of action. The process is highly time-consuming and can become expensive depending on the complexity of your situation.

Being armed with the best information and resources, such as a Texas family law attorney in your corner, can help smooth out bumps along the way.

The Basics

To begin your divorce proceedings, you or your spouse must file for divorce by submitting a petition with the county court in which either of you resides. You’ll need to provide basic information about yourself and your spouse in the petition, including:

  • Your full names
  • Date of marriage
  • Place of marriage
  • County of residence
  • Grounds for divorce

After filing the petition, you must then serve your spouse with a copy of it. This is generally done through a third-party process server that will deliver the papers to your spouse and provide proof of service.

Once your spouse receives the petition, they must respond within a specific timeframe. In their response, they can either agree or disagree with the facts presented in the petition.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

If your spouse agrees to the petition’s terms, your divorce will be considered uncontested. From there, you and your spouse will need to work together to draft a marital settlement agreement outlining the details of the divorce.

You may work with third-party professionals, such as a mediator, to help you reach a mutually beneficial decision before submitting the agreement to the court for the judge’s final approval.

If your spouse disagrees with the petition, the court will schedule a trial date, and your divorce will be considered contested. This process is more complex and requires both parties to present evidence and testimony to support their respective positions.


To avoid the hassle of trial, you and your spouse will have the opportunity to participate in pre-trial negotiations beforehand. This approach is generally more cost-effective than going to trial, as it allows you to come to an agreement on your own. However, this may not be possible in some situations, mainly if there is significant animosity or disagreement between parties.

In either case, after a final hearing or settlement agreement has been reached and approved in court, the judge will issue a decree of divorce, officially ending the marriage.

The decree will include the terms of your divorce, such as custody arrangements for any children involved, and the division of assets. It also serves as proof that you are no longer married and can be used to change your name or finalize other documentation.

Separation vs Divorce: Consult With an Attorney to Discuss Your Options

Deciding whether to divorce or separate is a personal choice and should not be taken lightly. It’s essential to understand the process involved and weigh your options carefully before you make any decisions. The most effective way to do so is to speak with an expert family law attorney about the specifics of your situation and determine the best course of action for you.

If you’re considering ending your marriage, the family law attorneys at Parker & Aguilar can help you carve a path forward. If you decide to get a divorce, we can represent your best interests throughout the process so that you arrive at the best possible outcome.

We currently support spouses in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, contact us today to discuss your marital situation.

You can reach our offices at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with one of our attorneys. We look forward to further discussing separation vs divorce with you and helping you get started on your case.