Legal Separation Before Divorce
An arrangement ordered by the court, a legal separation is when married couples live apart from each other and lead independent lives. It is a popular option when the parties concerned are considering the future of their relationship abut also want to ensure financial responsibilities and other boundaries are going to be honored by both sides. In some areas, this is a necessary step in the divorce process. Read on to learn more.
Facts To Consider
- The court may order specific obligations in the areas of finance, visitation of a child or children as well as custody of a child or children and support for a child or children.
- Although legally separated there may be particular benefits there are entitlements too.
- For some people spiritual beliefs and financial reasons as well as for the wellbeing of minor aged children may be a factor in obtaining a legal separation versus a divorce.
- A legal separation is an agreement ordered by the court where the two parties have separate lives, and this means they usually live separately.
- Legally separated couples can sometimes remain “insured” on the other person’s health, dental and vision insurance—check with your carrier before going this route.
How Does It Work?
There are many reasons for wanting a legal separation including:
- Religious reasons forbidding divorce, whereas legal separation allows the majority of the benefits of divorce.
- When the marriage still has the possibility of recovery.
- Legal separation is sometimes best for a couple with minor aged children, promoting stability.
- The retention of retirement and health benefits.
Some couples choose this route without a court order and many are embracing informal separations and no-fault divorce cases, making legal separation in a formal sense less common than it used to be. When the separation date arrives, the party’s ability to spend money from a bank account or credit card held in both names is limited – as well as bringing in controls over vehicles and property. Each party following the separation ate becomes responsible for their own finances.
Legal Separation Benefits
Once a couple have reached their tenth wedding anniversary certain future benefits may be contended with. When deciding to separate, the legal separation agreement may keep some entitlements of benefits intact. For example, those married to members of the military must remain married for ten years to benefit from the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. Once married for ten years, it also means you can benefit from particular social security benefits. You may be able to draw a larger sum if you can draw the benefits of the social security retirements of your former partner. Nonetheless, there are time a legal separation is preferential to divorce. The separation may be temporary whereas a divorce is a permanent condition absent remarriage. It can also be used as a “last chance saloon” to save a troubled marriage. Legal separation also has the benefit of being less costly than a divorce and to go through the process before continuing with divorce can make the whole situation for a child or children easier to endure.
Do Divorcing Couples Have to Live Separately?
Depending on where you live, you may be unable to live apart—again, many states require spouses to separate before a court can grant a divorce.
State Requirements Regarding “Separate and Apart”
Your state may require you and your spouse to live “separate and apart” for a specified period of time prior to filing for divorce or a judge finalizing your divorce. Each state has its own set of rules.
States That Do Not Require Divorce
The majority of states (particularly those with no-fault divorce) do not require spouses to live apart prior to divorcing. California, Texas, and Florida are all non-separation states. If you live in one of these states, you are permitted to cohabitate with your spouse during the pendency of your divorce.
If you’re unsure whether your state requires separation prior to filing for divorce, you can conduct research on the state’s divorce laws, contact a local family law attorney, or contact a local legal aid department.
Do We Need a Separation Agreement in Writing?
When a couple divorces, it is possible, if not probable, that communication is disrupted to some degree. Even if you and your spouse are amicable when you separate, your relationship may deteriorate as the divorce process progresses. By documenting the terms of your separation, you can avoid future conflict or uncertainty. Additionally, if you decide to continue living together during your divorce, a separation agreement is critical to demonstrate your intention to separate on a specific date. Similarly, if you live in a state that requires you to separate for a period of time before the court will accept your divorce petition, a separation agreement is an excellent way to establish your separation date.
Your written separation agreement can serve as a road map for your relationship until the court accepts your divorce petition and issues temporary orders, if necessary. (Temporary orders may include provisions regarding child support, child custody, spousal support, and property division.) Having said that, if you and your spouse are unable to agree on how you will handle things during the separation or if you are unable to convince your spouse to sign a separation agreement, you may petition the court for temporary orders prior to initiating the divorce process.
The Separation Process’s Subsequent Steps
Divorce is a lengthy process. It could take up to a year from the time you file your case to the time the judge rules on it. On the other hand, depending on your state, you may be able to divorce within 30 days if you have an amicable divorce with few hiccups. In either case, you should have a contingency plan in place while you wait.
Take out a credit card on your own. Divorce can have a detrimental effect on your credit, so obtaining your own credit card now can help you establish credit and maintain independence from your spouse. Establishing a separate credit card or bank account (discussed below) will also assist you in establishing your separation date during the divorce process. (When it comes to property division, child support, and spousal support, the judge will need to know the date of separation.)
Maintain separate bank accounts. Following that, close your joint bank accounts and open new ones. If you and your spouse are unable to agree on how to divide the money in your accounts or if you have concerns about how to divide your paychecks, keep the joint accounts open but open an individual account as well.
Create a property list. Begin by compiling a list of your exclusive personal property and presenting it to your spouse. If you have a disagreement about something, you can attempt to resolve it without involving the court.
Recognize areas of agreement. If your spouse is willing, your period of separation may enable you to negotiate the terms of your divorce calmly. Discuss issues such as spousal support, child support, and child custody. If you believe you and your spouse are capable of negotiating the terms of your divorce collaboratively, you can look into DIY divorce services together or consider hiring a professional mediator to assist you in resolving any disagreements. Considerable forethought can go a long way in a divorce. Likewise, healthy communication is possible. Take the time to chart your course as you embark on the next phase of your life, including when it comes to establishing a healthy living situation that protects your rights. You’ll be glad you invested your energy early in the process as the divorce progresses.
Need a Legal Separation Lawyer in Scottsdale or Phoenix?
As family court lawyers, we have built a network of Arizona mediators, attorneys, tax specialists, estate planners, financial planners, child specialists, real property appraisers, adult and child therapists and parenting coordinators who are here for you if you ever need them. Our lawyers, divorce mediators and collaborative divorce attorneys in Scottsdale are here to make your divorce less stressful and keep you in control and the costs contained. Call today for an initial consultation at 480-744-7711 or [email protected]. Our family lawyers can also help with divorce litigation, child custody, legal guardianship, paternity, prenuptial agreements, and more.
*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.