When relationships get messy some people simply aren’t ready to pursue a divorce. Instead of enacting such a final chapter of your relationship, some choose to pursue a formal separation. A legal separation is sometimes preferred to an informal separation since there is a legal agreement drawn up in writing that will protect you. This security will help both of you move forward with or without one another without having to consult the courts again. It also makes for a smoother transition, should you decide to divorce in the future.
What is a formal separation, how much does it cost, and what are the benefits? Here is everything you will discuss when drawing up your formal separation papers.
What is a formal separation?
Opposite of an informal separation, your formal separation gets the law involved. Without getting a legal divorce and dissolving your marriage, a formal separation would allow you to have legal ramifications drawn up by the court without having to get a divorce. This would entail a legal separation where a mutual agreement is drawn up regarding the responsibilities and the rights of each partner.
In order to be considered legally separated, you and your spouse should be living apart for up to 6 months. There should be absolutely no prospect of reconciliation when pursuing a marital separation.
A formal separation creates a mandated set of rules decided by the courts on how finances, assets, children, and other legal matters are handled. This also means that it is more expensive than an informal separation (which costs nothing), especially if the couple in question cannot come to an agreement.
Getting along with your ex-spouse
It is extremely helpful if you and your ex can get along during this time. This will make the process smoother for everybody involved. Keep clear heads and think responsibly about how to divide property, time with children, debts, and possessions. Not only will this lead to a speedy separation, it will also help keep legal costs low.
If you are having trouble deciding how to separate, couples mediation will be beneficial for reaching an agreement on these important topics.
Things you will discuss
Since you will be signing legal and binding documents, it’s important that you know exactly what you are getting into when pursuing a legal separation. First, you will need to fill out a petition for separation. You will need multiple copies which you will send to a divorce court. Always keep personal copies for yourself of any legal documents needed during this process.
You will then need to pay your fee. A paper will then be drawn up by both separating parties depicting who will get what and how assets and children will be handled.
Here are just some of the things you will discuss in your endeavor for a legal separation:
1. Financial obligations
Sometimes referred to as separation maintenance, this refers to legally configuring your financial obligations such as shared debt, rent/mortgage payments, child support, and other issues of care for assets and properties.
It should be noted that what each party is awarded by the court during a legal separation is not always indicative of what they will receive should they pursue a divorce in the future.
2. Child visitation and custody
Even though you are not divorcing, a legal separation will still require both parents to decide the terms of child visitation and a custody agreement. Wise parents will put their children first in this situation.
So long as it is safe to do so, allow your spouse to share custody with you so that you are both still legally responsible for your children. Allow for visitations with both yourself and your ex so that your children still have a balanced family life and feel safe and secure, despite all these new changes.
3. Living situations
When drawing up your legal separation agreement you and your ex may decide who will get to stay in the marital home. Regardless of who stays, it is usually recommended that your children should stay at their family home, so that there is no unnecessary upheaval during your separation.
4. Legal and binding contract
Once you have drawn up your contract with your mate and the courts, be sure you fully agree with its contents before signing anything. It is possible to change what is writing in your agreement, but both parties must agree to the new proposal, which isn’t always easy to accomplish, especially in the case of bitter separations or custody battles. If your spouse does not agree to the changes you wish to make, you will have to take your new requests to the court system which is a lengthy and pricey endeavor.
5. Things to remember
Make it your goal to follow your list of rules and regulations you have drawn up with your ex, or inform them otherwise. If, at any point, one of you breaks an agreement that was made in your legal contract you could be taken to court for being in breach.
When pursuing a legal separation it is important that you inform your accountant, children’s school, tax office, insurance companies, credit companies, health provider, and postal service (should you need to forward your mail to a new address) of your separation to avoid any complications in service.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.