If you and your spouse are maintaining separate households and each have a separate mailing address, you may assume that you are legally separated. But the truth is, legal separation can only be issued by the court. This quasi-married state serves to outline the rights and responsibilities of married couples who are living apart, but who have not yet divorced. In the case of couples with children, it outlines custody and child support issues until a divorce is final. Make sure you choose your options wisely to get the protection you and your children deserve.
Types of Separations
- Legal Separation
One member of the couple must file with the court for a legal separation. This is typically done to iron out an agreement in regards to the financial responsibilities of each party, such as separation maintenance akin to alimony and child support in a divorce agreement, child custody and visitation, and property division. Both parties live in and maintain separate living quarters. Legal separations allow time to address complicated property divisions or property disputes before a divorce.
- Trial Separation
Both parties agree to live separately while they decide if they really want to divorce of if they wish to resume the marriage. Any property acquired during this time is still considered communal property. Both spouses are held responsible for debts that accrue during a trial separation. No court action is necessary for a trial separation. Trial separations are typically short-term when a couple is experiencing difficulty and need to be apart to work through their problems.
- Permanent Separation
A permanent separation is similar to a legal separation in that both parties have agreed to separate with no intention of renewing the marriage. However, there has been no court intervention. Debts acquired by either party are generally considered the responsibility of the individual, with the exception of debts acquired for the health and welfare of the family, such as medical expenses for children and costs for the upkeep of the family home. Permanent separations may offer a solution to those with financial difficulties who are not yet ready to proceed with the expense of a divorce.
What if my State Doesn't Recognize a Legal Separation?
If you are in a position where you and your spouse have separated, but you cannot get a legal separation because your state does not recognize it, you still have options for protecting your interests and creating a legal agreement regarding child support and custody or other issues. You can file for a divorce and write up an agreement to present to the judge. If the judge accepts the agreement, he will issue a temporary court order that makes the agreement legally binding until your divorce is final. If you and your spouse change your minds and decide a divorce is not for you, your lawyer can put the divorce on hold. In the meantime, your temporary court order provides you will the same protection as a legal separation agreement.
How Do I Find the Divorce Laws for My State?
You can check your state's divorce laws at Divorce Source by clicking on the link to your state. This will provide you with a good overview of the regulations for your area. You can also call a local family or divorce lawyer to discuss your concerns. He can guide you to the options that are right for you. Most provide a free initial consultation.
Whether you are ready to file for a divorce, or just need some time to work through some difficult areas of your marriage, protecting yourself and you children financially is important. Consider you options carefully with the help of a divorce attorney and choose the one that works best for you.