Legal Separation vs. Divorce

Often time the first thing women think of after the split of a trying marriage is that it’s time to divorce. Is it really? You may decide to just separate or enter into a legal separation.

Regardless of your decision, you will still grieve your marriage and will need to let go in order to move forward in your life

Any couple can separate and live apart if they so desire. This may be dangerous though as there is no legal documentation regarding the division of assets or income. It may give your spouse the opportunity to pile up debt in your name or sell off assets without your knowledge

A legal separation is much like a divorce. Both cases require the filling of a petition in a state court. A legal binding agreement is determined in regards to the separation of assets, alimony, child support and parenting time. A legal separation also protects you from being obligated for any debts incurred by your spouse after you part. It is always best to seek out an attorney regarding your particular situation as he will know the laws in your state. If the two of you agree on the separation agreement, the costs will be reduced significantly.

Legal separation requires the filing of a petition for legal separation in a state court. The process is very similar to divorce, but does not terminate a marriage

The main differences between a legal separation and a divorce is that you remain married which means neither party may remarry. Another difference is that the wife is unable to resume her maiden name.

Reasons why you may want to choose a legal separation over a divorce:

  • No grounds for separation need to be proven which means that you may not be forced to disclose certain information.
  • If your religious beliefs prevent you from divorcing, a legal separation gives you the freedom you desire while remaining married.
  • A legal separation protects your money and assets allowing you time from each other to decide if a divorce is what you really want.
  • You are allowed to retain medical benefits through your spouse’s employer. If you have any sort of disability or are self-employed, this may be huge issue for you to consider. Many employers will cut off the spouse of an employer as soon as a divorce is final.
  • If your spouse is in the military, you may wish to obtain a legal separation until you hit your tenth wedding anniversary. Being married for 10 or more years entitles you to certain benefits set up by the Uniformed Services Former spouse Protection Act.
  • To be able to collect social security from your spouse’s contributions. Note that this will not decrease his benefits. In order to claim spousal benefits you must have been married for 10 or more years and remain unmarried.
  • There may be tax advantages. If you divorce you must file taxes separately. If you are legally separated you have the option to file jointly or separately.
  • If you are not eligible to divorce in the state you reside in because you have not yet met their residency requirements.
  • If you choose to follow through with a divorce, it should be much simpler as the court can convert the separation agreement into a divorce settlement agreement.

Before you make your final decision be sure to get advice from an attorney, as there may be additional pros or cons depending upon which state you live in. If you choose a legal separation is best for you at this time, keep in mind that if you seek a divorce in the future you will need to go through the legal steps necessary to terminate your marriage.  You may also want to discuss your emotional upheaval with a skilled divorce coach.

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