When it comes to tough times in a marriage, couples often find themselves looking for a way out. Sometimes they have made the decision that there is nothing left and they seek finalization through divorce, while other times, the spouses may believe that living apart for some period of time may result in fixing the relationship. This is known as separation.
Separation vs. legal separation
When married couples separate, it is important to understand that there is separation and then there is legal separation. Separation simply refers to the spouses living apart from one another. This isn’t a legal matter, thus doesn’t require filing documents with or having to appear in court. This form of separation, since not recognized as a legal separation, may result in the spouse’s legal rights being impacted (since in the eyes of the law, you are still married).
Legal separation is different from separation
Legal separation is different from separation as it is a legally recognized status of your marriage. Thus, it requires filing documents with and appearing in court (much like the process of divorce). It is also important to note that a legal separation is viewed as an independent action and is not considered to be the first step in the divorce process.
Making the decision to separate, whether legally or not, will require that the spouses work out arrangements for such things as division of property, child support, child custody and visitation, spousal support, debts, and bills. If you are simply separating, this will need to be agreed to between the parties. When there is a need for child/spousal support or child custody/visitation in a separation, you should seek out a family attorney or if pursuing on your own, check with your local court to see if there are documents and procedures to file.
What happens when you legally separate?
If you pursue the route of legally separating, just as with divorce, custody, visitation, child and spousal support are subject to final orders and assets and debts are permanently divided.
If you are seeking separation, it is advised that you seek out the guidance of a family attorney. This will be an opportunity to review your current situation to decide if separation, legal separation or divorce is the best choice for you.