Legal Separation is an alternative to divorce and is a good choice for couples experiencing marital problems but who are not ready to divorce. This process can also be used in some cases as a basis for long-term reconciliation.
In a legal separation, the parties are still married, versus a divorce where the marriage is ended. A legal separation is a court order that mandates the rights and duties of a couple while they are still married, but living apart. In a divorce, the spouses are no longer married. Legal separations are not too common, but can be helpful to a situation where the spouses work through any personal or financial issues affecting the marriage. In proceedings for legal separation, the court decides the following, much as it would in divorce proceedings:
- Separation maintenance: this includes spousal and child support, but is called something different to distinguish it from the effects of a divorce. The court papers for separation maintenance are usually filed by a lawyer through what is referred to as a “motion pending litigation”. The court’s decision on awards for separation maintenance does influence what each spouse is awarded should they later continue to divorce proceedings.
- Child custody
- Child visitation
- Property division
Property division during legal separations and divorces are typically determined by the couple’s situation and how it relates to the property. The following situations are common forms of separation affecting property division:
A trial separation refers to a period of time during which spouses live apart to decide whether or not to continue the marriage. This trial separation has no real legal effect, unlike a legal separation where the parties are ordered by a court to fulfill certain property divisions and duties. Instead, a trial separation is viewed as a period of time in the couple’s marriage. Any property or debt acquired during a trial separation is still considered to be acquired during the marriage, and hence, probably marital property. This is true even if the couple ultimately never gets back together. Not until either spouse decides to end the marriage does this property classification have the potential to change (depending on the state the couple lives in).
Sometimes, circumstances arise that lead to couples living apart with no intent, one way or the other, to continue the marriage. Additionally, some states have laws that require couples seeking to file a no-fault divorce to live apart for a designated period of time. Living separately can affect the property division. Property and debt acquired …