During marital stress or tension, it is common for one party to temporarily move out while the couple decides how to proceed with the relationship. Some couples even opt to make the separation legal during that uncertain time. If you are currently living apart from your spouse or considering a legal separation, you may be wondering how legal separation is different from a dissolution of marriage. Learning the difference between the two could help you decide how to proceed.
What is a legal separation?
A legal separation is more than just living apart; a legal separation is court-approved. To be considered a legal separation, there must be grounds on which the separation is based. Grounds for a legal separation include adultery, incompatibility, absence for more than one year, extreme cruelty, habitual drunkenness, and gross neglect of duty. After the proper paperwork is filed, the court addresses issues such as:
- child support
- spousal support
- payment of debts
- division of property issues
How is legal separation different from divorce?
A divorce dissolves or ends the marriage and all benefits associated with marriage. In a legal separation, the marriage is not ended.
What are the benefits of a legal separation?
A legal separation is ideal for a couple who cannot or does not want to divorce for religious or personal reasons. Because the marriage is not ended through a legal separation, spouses can still benefit from the financial or medical benefits of being married. The third benefit of a legal separation is that, because key issues are clarified in court, there is a reduced risk for additional fighting or stress during this tense time. The fourth benefit is that if a couple reconciles and wishes to remain together, there is no need to remarry because the marriage was never dissolved.
If you are considering a legal separation, a lawyer well-versed in family law can help guide you through your transition and ensure that your legal rights are protected and upheld.