Many couples physically separate while they're trying to decide whether to ultimately divorce or reconcile and work on their marriage. This is often referred to as a trial separation. However, even if you and your spouse are maintaining separate residences, you're still considered a couple, legal speaking. There is a marital status in-between marriage and divorce known as a legal separation in many states. You may wonder what the purpose is of getting a legal separation – won't that just be an extra set of court costs and legal fees if you decide to divorce later? But as it turns out, there are a few good reasons to consider a legal separation while you contemplate the ultimate fate of your marriage.
Protect Your Credit and Finances
As long as you're still legally considered a married couple, anything your spouse does affects you too. That means that if your spouse goes out and buys a new car or runs up thousands of dollars in credit card debt, you're just as on the hook for that money as your spouse. Even if you're living in different locations, your spouse can wreck your credit and put you deeply in debt if they're not afraid of doing the same to themselves.
Legally separating from your spouse can protect you from this kind of financial damage. You'll still be responsible for any debts the two of you accrued as a couple, but anything that your spouse does after the legal separation is in place shouldn't affect your credit and debt load.
Streamline Divorce Procedures
If you and your spouse eventually do decide to divorce, it's true that you'll end up paying for two different legal proceedings. However, the divorce won't be as difficult as you might think.
During the separation process, you and your spouse will work out how to divide assets, property, custody, and visitation. If you decide to divorce after being separated for some time, then the orders dividing your property and determining your custody arrangements can usually just be applied post-divorce as well, unless one of you objects. Basically, you'll already have been through the hardest part of the divorce procedure.
Sometimes, even if a couple wants to divorce, it makes sense for them to maintain some legal ties. If a divorce will leave one spouse without health insurance, for example, a legal separation may allow that spouse to continue receiving health benefits on the insured spouse's employee health insurance plan.
Opting for legal separation instead of divorce can also allow spouses to share Social Security or military benefits as well. In cases where spouses prefer not to be married but cannot afford to maintain two households, or want to preserve a certain standard of living for their children, a legal separation allows them the flexibility to pool resources without the risk of being held financially responsible for each other.
A family law attorney in your area can advise you about the pros and cons of legal separation in your specific situation. Find out whether or not this option makes sense for you and your spouse.Share