Key Differences Between a Separation Agreement and Divorce

When it comes to escaping a tumultuous marriage, some people may be wary of the divorce process and opt for a separation agreement over a finalizing divorce. Whether they are on the fence about their relationship or feel like the divorce process is too stressful to negotiate, in Texas, separation is merely a bandage over a gaping wound, whereas divorce is a resolution.

Here’s a closer look at some of the key differences between separation agreements and divorce, and why divorce presents a cleaner exit to a crumbling marriage.


There are many differences in the details of these two practices. Above all, though, is the fact that Texas doesn’t recognize a separation as a legal step away from your marriage. However, there are other steps couples can take that provide similar outcomes.

Temporary orders, protective orders, separation agreements are all closely related to a legal separation in that they serve as a temporary fix to a marriage problem.

Unfortunately, without a legal divorce, all of these other options come with potentially damaging consequences for a family.

Marital Status

In a separation, although you live apart from each other, you and your spouse are still married. So, even though you have your freedom to move on and see other people, when it comes down to getting serious with another partner, your marriage still stands in the way of your happiness.

In order to legally remarry, you have to be divorced. If you feel like you and your spouse have no chance of reconciliation, it is a better idea to enter the divorce process with an experienced attorney now, instead of down the line when further complications from your separation (i.e. benefits, property, debts) can arise.

Debt and Liability

Despite living apart, your marital status and everything that comes with it lives on; including debt and liability. In a divorce, debts between spouses are handled through lawyers during the dissolution process.

However, even with a separation agreement in tow, a person may still be held responsible for the debt of the other spouse in the marriage. This can be financially crippling if one member of the marriage attempts a larger purchase, but is held back by the financial burden of their separated spouse.

Accumulation of Assets

When it comes to the accumulation of property and assets, many people see the things they’ve accrued during the separation as “theirs.” However, your property rights aren’t based on the time you were separated. Even during a separation that leads to a divorce, the courts will rule that assets acquired between the date of the marriage and the date of the divorce are to be divided in a fair and just manner.


To someone already going through a tough time in their life, a divorce may seem like the more problematic process. However, as you can see, keeping strings attached without the intent of returning to a marriage can lead to even more frustration and manipulation down the road.

With the help of an experienced divorce lawyer, a divorce makes your separation from the opposing party legal, and handles all of the essential details through the due process of Texas courts. A divorce grants you freedom from your partner’s debts, legally settles child custody agreements, and helps divide property in a fair and equitable manner.


If your goal in a separation is to get away from your spouse for good, a divorce is the cleanest way to legally escape a bad situation. The family law attorneys of Marx, Altman & Johnson have the experience to help you even through the most contested of divorce cases. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and start a permanent new chapter in your life.

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