Most couples understand the concept of divorce, which involves:
- Filing a petition with the court
- Paying a filing fee
- Dividing marital assets and debts
- Deciding upon child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance issues
In addition, divorcing spouses must complete a mandatory waiting period before the divorce can be granted. The actual length of this mandatory separation period varies from state to state but can be anywhere from six months to a number of years.
In Hawaii and Pennsylvania, the separation period is two years. Rhode Island and Texas require three years. And in Idaho, couples must remain separated for five full years. Other states, like Illinois, Vermont and the District of Columbia, permit couples to mutually waive the statutory separation period and file for divorce after only six months.
Nevertheless, once the divorce is granted, you are no longer married and after a certain brief period of time, you will be free to marry someone else. On the other hand, you may no longer qualify for benefits such as coverage under your former spouse’s health insurance and you will be required to file a separate tax return.
Legal separation is an actual legal status that grants married couples many of the same right and obligations as does a divorce while allowing them to maintain their status as a married couple.
In fact, other than the fact that when a married couple gets separation legally, they remain legally married and thus cannot remarry, the process for obtaining a legal separation and the overall effect that it has on the relationship are very similar to divorce.
Legal separation as grounds for divorce
Most states regard legal separation as a no-fault ground for divorce. In other words, legal separation is usually considered an acknowledgment by both parties that the marriage has come to an end.
If the state in which you live acknowledges legal separation as a ground for divorce, this can be the most convenient way to obtain a divorce. This is because you don’t have to be concerned with proving that your wife or husband was guilty of any specific misconduct.
You and your spouse must simply prove that you have lived separately and apart from each other for a specified period of time and have corroborating witnesses who can testify that the two of you have not cohabited during that time.
If at any time during that period of separation you and your spouse got back together, a judge will be unable to grant a divorce based on the grounds of a voluntary separation.
For more information regarding how your state handles divorce after separation, contact a knowledgeable family law attorney in the state in which you live.