A legal separation is a legal procedure (similar to a divorce) in which a married couple petitions (asks) a court to allow them to live separate and apart from one another and terminate any marital obligations. The only difference is that the couple is still technically married, which means they have not terminated their marriage and are unable to remarry unless they divorce.
Legal separation is also known as a “limited divorce,” “judicial separation,” or “separation from bed and board,” depending on the state in which you live. In some states, spouses must first be legally separated before filing for divorce. The time it takes to get a legal separation is usually between 6 months and 2 years, but it varies depending on the laws in each state.
In jurisdictions where legal separation is not permitted, the spouses could simply live apart and sign a written separation agreement (signed by both spouses) to achieve the same result.
What are the Rights of Spouses During a Divorce?
A court can decide on child custody and support, alimony, and property division in a legal separation proceeding. However, as previously stated, the spouses will remain legally married and will not be able to remarry unless they obtain a divorce.
The following are some of the most common issues that arise between divorcing couples:
- whether one spouse is entitled to alimony for a limited period of time
- If there are minor children, how much child support should be paid?
- rights to the family home, such as whether either spouse has the right to live in the marital home during the divorce and who will pay the mortgage, and
- which debts each spouse is responsible for
Is a Legal Separation Necessary?
Because their religious beliefs forbid divorce, some couples opt for a legal separation. A legal separation is viewed by some couples as a “cooling-off period” in a troubled marriage. Whatever the reason, a separation has the benefit of providing a legal framework for both parties in the event that one fails to adhere to the terms of an agreement or support obligations. If one spouse fails to pay child support or alimony, for example, the separation judgment and order(s) will give the recipient spouse the right to have the orders enforced in court, which means a judge can make the delinquent spouse pay. There is no way to enforce the overdue payments if there is no legal separation or separation agreement followed by a court order. When a legal separation or separation orders are in place, the spouse who does not pay can be held in contempt, which can result in fines, penalties, and even jail time. While the spouses try to figure out whether they want to stay married or divorce, a legal separation may provide some stability to a rocky relationship.
Do you require the services of a lawyer?
If you’re being asked to sign a separation agreement, you should seek legal advice to understand the terms and how they affect your rights. Never sign a legal document without first consulting an attorney. If you are seeking legal separation, an experienced family law attorney can assist you in protecting your rights both before and after the separation.
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.