When married parents choose to separate, the effects on the children are similar to the effects of divorce, but even more complicated in some ways because divorce is not an inevitable outcome. For some parents, this can feel like being stuck in personal and legal limbo. The experience is often difficult to navigate fairly, even for parents who commit to their children's best interests.
Courts acknowledge that legal separation is a useful tool for many families, allowing spouses to take intentional time apart to evaluate their circumstances with a clear mind and determine how to move forward. Like divorce, legal separation typically involves one parent leaving the family home, bringing up many issues surrounding child custody.
If you and your child's other parent believe you need to separate, it is important to consider your rights as a parent as well as the best interests of the child you love. Protecting your rights and providing the care and attention your child needs should be a top priority.
Putting your child's needs first
Separation in a marriage with children is almost always a difficult emotional experience for everyone involved. The way that parents address their conflicts and the example parents set around dealing with life's most difficult issues are lessons that children may carry with them their entire lives, for better or for worse.
Ideally, parents who choose to separate can come to a mutual agreement about how to divide custody privileges and responsibilities. In most cases, if parents present a court with a custody agreement they both agree to follow, the court will approve it. However, if parents cannot agree on these terms, a court may hand down a custody order that parents must follow.
Many parents fear that separating means that one of them will simply spend less time with a child or may have much less influence on how the child is raised. In many instances, it is useful to use legal mediation to help parents reach a fair agreement about separation custody with the help of a professionally neutral third party. A mediator comes to the negotiation table with a full understanding of the legal issues and personal rights at hand, and can help ensure that neither side suffers unfairly while placing the needs of the child ahead of the preferences of the parents.
Your time with your child is irreplaceable
Your marital separation may lead to divorce, or it may lead to a reconciliation and, ultimately, a stronger family. Throughout this process, the attention that you pay to the needs of your child and the experience that they are going through can strengthen your parent-child relationship for years to come.
Make sure to use all the tools and resources you have available to protect your child during this difficult time and ensure that your rights in Texas remain secure while you weather this difficult season.