Sometimes, you need a break. Perhaps your marriage isn’t going so well, and you don’t know what to do about it. You and your spouse talked about divorce, but you are not quite ready to take that step. Well, you have an option.
A legal separation can be a viable alternative to divorce for those who do not want to end their marriage but cannot continue to live together comfortably. After filing a legal separation petition, a couple will be legally recognized as separated and the court will issue a legally binding document.
Note, the act of just living apart does not entail a legal separation. For example, in Arizona, the law describes a legal separation as a situation where a wife and a husband live apart while staying married under mutual consent. The requirement for mutual consent is important since it is an essential requirement for a valid legal separation.
Legal Separation Is Not A Divorce
The main difference between separation and divorce lies in the legalities of the two processes. In a divorce, both parties are no longer legally married. But when you are legally separated, you are still legally married while living separately.
Another important aspect of legal separation is that it permits you to keep your healthcare and social security benefits. In a divorce, the benefits will be terminated.
Many couples seek legal separations over divorce for financial reasons like these. A legal separation consists of the same aspects as a divorce such as visitation, child custody, spousal support, and division of assets.
Also, the reasons that might justify a legal separation differ from those that might justify a divorce.
Separation May Not Lead To Divorce
In most cases, a legally separated couple will eventually divorce. Of course, not every situation is the same. If both of you need a little but want to work things out and eventually rebuild your relationship, then this is definitely possible. Legal separation can help you work through issues in your marriage that are causing contention.
Divorce and legal separation are difficult and complex processes that require difficult decisions to be made. You may find it beneficial to get a legal separation first as you navigate the waters of divorce. By learning how legal separation differs from and is similar to divorce, you can make the right decision for your situation.
Benefits Of Legal Separation?
Legal separation is a legal means of separating the parties without making any permanent or irreversible changes to their marriage. This aids those who are undecided whether they wish to proceed with a divorce or not.
Other couples opt for this option on religious or moral grounds. This gives them a way out of the marriage without compromising their moral values and beliefs.
A legal separation also makes it possible for one spouse to continue to receive health care and social security for themselves and their children from the other spouse.
Under a legal separation, a marriage may last for up to ten years.
How Do You Prep For A Legal Separation?
- Moving Out
If you are relocating, ensure that your name will be removed from any leases. If your spouse isn’t paying the rent, you want nothing to do with it.
When you move out, you must forward your mail to your new address or address at the post office.
- Separating Finance
Until the accounts are frozen, you remain liable for them if they are in both your name and that of your spouse.
Keep a record of all mortgages, bank, and credit information, including their addresses and phone numbers. Remove your name from any accounts you no longer desire to be responsible for.
If your spouse will not agree to remove your name from joint bank and credit accounts, freeze them. If the accounts are in both your name and that of your spouse, you are still legally responsible until the accounts are frozen.
- Dealing With Taxes And Benefits
A copy of all income tax returns for at least the past six years should be made. State and federal tax agencies are not involved in divorce or separation, so you will still be responsible for any unpaid taxes.
If you desire to maintain health insurance coverage through a legal separation rather than a divorce, review the policy language carefully. There is a clause in some insurance policies that suspends coverage in the event of a legal separation. Ensure that you have coverage.
Consult an accountant about your pension plans or retirement benefits. You must follow all legal requirements to maintain an interest in any pension account or retirement benefit.
- Keeping Special Belongings
It is common for a divorce judgment to award the separate parties possession of the personal property. When you separate from your spouse, make sure you specify in the separation agreement that any important belongings you leave with your spouse will belong to you if you ever divorce.
Finally, always remember that deciding whether to get a legal separation or a divorce can be confusing. To make the best decision, it is important to completely understand the legal and emotional implications of both possibilities and weigh the options. Speak to professionals in the respective fields (financial, legal, psychological), this will help guide your decision-making.