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Do I have to file for divorce to get child support in Texas?

First, it is important to understand that Texas child support law requires parents to financially support their children, regardless of whether you are separated and have not filed for divorce, or you were never married to the other parent. (For unmarried couples, If paternity has not been established, it will need to be either court ordered or voluntarily established if you are going to seek child support).

So, the short answer, thankfully, is no, you don’t need to get a divorce in order to receive child support! While the state of Texas does not recognize legal separation, there are Texas family law options that you can pursue which will provide you with an outcome very similar to legal separation.

Do I have to file for divorce to get child support in Texas

In family law cases with minor children, the types of orders you can file include temporary orders, protective orders, suits affecting the parent-child relationship, or separation agreements. (I will cover separation agreements in an upcoming post). Pursuing these legal avenues can provide you and or your partner with structured visitation, financial support, and even division of property, all before a divorce is finalized or even filed.

What relief can temporary family law orders in Texas provide?

Temporary orders can cover a number of issues and, as the name suggests, they are temporary until a judge enters final orders, something that would typically occur when a divorce is finalized. Often, temporary orders are negotiated, agreed, and signed voluntarily by the parties, however, when you are not able to agree, you will attend a hearing and the judge will make the decisions for you. Temporary orders can cover everything from determining which parent will be the custodial parent, to who will pay which bills. Temporary family law orders in Texas are a great way to ensure that everyone knows what their role and responsibilities are during this period of time which can often be adversarial.

Temporary orders can cover everything from determining which parent will be the custodial parent, to who will pay which bills.

When is it appropriate to file for a protective order?

The purpose of a protective order is to protect a victim or victims of family violence and abuse. Temporary and emergency protective orders generally last for 14 days and prior to it expiring, both parties will attend a hearing to determine whether or not a more permanent protective order will be granted. In cases of family violence and domestic abuse, a protective order will also likely dictate where the children will live and what, if any, access to them is allowed as well as who gets to stay in the house or who has to leave. They can also establish child and spousal support. Typically, protective orders expire after two years. To learn more about protective orders in Texas, you can read more here or contact one of our domestic violence attorneys for a free 15-minute consultation.

Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SACPR) in Texas

Filing a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) is another legal option that can achieve similar results to a legal separation. While a SACPR is not part of a divorce, it is yet another way for a parent to gain possession, conservatorship, or access to the children.

In summary, please remember that while you are able to legally ask for child support if you are separated from your spouse, we do not recommend that you avoid (or choose not to file for) divorce simply to avoid the hassle. Because you remain legally married, there can be serious financial consequences that are avoidable when a divorce is finalized.

The Fort Worth family law and child support attorneys at Martin Oostdyk are skilled in helping parents navigate this difficult period, while ensuring that expectations, rules, and payments have been legally established between the parties. Please contact us for a free 15-minute consultation by clicking below or by calling our office to schedule at (817) 813-7777 | (469) 414-9999.


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