In certain situations, legal separation may be a reasonable alternative to divorce. Simply moving out of a marital home and separating from a spouse is not considered a “legal separation.” Legal separation will often involve the same issues as a divorce (e.g. community property, community debt, child custody, alimony, etc). The main difference is that in a legal separation both parties are still considered “married” in the eyes of the law so neither party can lawfully remarry.
Reasons for deciding to legal separate as opposed to filing for divorce include, but certainly are not limited to the following:
- Separated spouses, while living apart, can still benefit from the same joint health insurance plan;
- Separated spouses can remain married for purposes of religious preferences;
- If married long enough, separated spouses can receive certain social security benefits;
- Separated spouses may be able to continue filing taxes jointly (this is all dependent on each couple’s individual circumstances); and
- If separated spouses are simply uncertain if divorce is the right decision to make, a legal separation can provide them with a general feeling of what it would be like to be divorced, and whether or not they may wish to rekindle their relationship.
Legal separations are governed by agreements that are approved by a court. Terms regarding property, child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support (alimony) are all outlined in a separation agreement. If spouses can come to an agreement on how such terms should be outlined, then a judge is likely to approve the agreement. When discussing potential legal separation, you need guidance from the seasoned divorce attorneys of Reppucci & Roeder to make sure that you are protecting your interests and those of your children. If divorce may seem like an extreme measure to resolve the differences you have with your spouse, then legal separation may be the option that will make the most sense for everyone involved.
Since legal separation typically involve complex legal issues, it is important that you seek independent legal counsel to navigate this process.