When I was a child before no fault divorce, it was much more common for a couple to separate than divorce. These days legal separation is still useful in certain situations due to finances, health insurance costs, and/or social security benefits. Therefore, it is appropriate and practical that people have a decent understanding of the issues raised by legal separation. Sometimes, it just might be the best solution for you and your family.
Legal Separation: The Basics
In many ways, a legal separation has all of the ingredients of a divorce — if you will — except for the formal dissolution of a marriage.
- In order to obtain a legal separation, a person needs to file a Petition in a court in the county where they reside. A Petition or complaint seeking a legal separation looks very similar to a divorce Petition. The document will ask the judge to do things like divide property, set child support, set custody arrangements for the minor children (if there are minor children) and other such matters. The Petition will ask the judge to do everything but dissolve the marriage itself.
- The division of property is usually the most intricate and important subject in a legal separation case. More often than not it is property and money issues for a couple who sees a legal separation will have the most difficult time resolving. (Of course, this can be a sticking point in many divorce cases as well.)
- During a legal separation case, the court will also be called upon to issue orders relating to the custody and parenting time for the minor children of the marriage, should there be any.
- In the end, a judge in a legal separation case will issue a final decree or order. The same sort of decree or order also issues in a divorce case. Once again, the only real, significant different between a divorce decree and order or legal separation rests in the fact that the marriage itself is not dissolved or ended.
Transcript of Paul’s Video
Legal Separation or Divorce?
Some parties separate, reconcile, separate, reconcile again… I think the record of my practice has been a couple that separated and reconciled four times before finally getting divorced. So then… the $64,000 question in family court was —- what is the day of separation? And the day a separation has huge, huge significance on division of assets, on what is post separation acquisition of assets or income, so no rule that you — that it has to be mutually agreeable, but as I mentioned, repeated separations and reconciliations can be confusing and really ratchet up the cost of divorce later on because it complicates things.
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