Legal separation is usually the term used for a court-ordered separation. A court may order this in response to a request from the couple, who are approaching a divorce and need a kind of half-way situation for working out issues like child custody and support, distribution of property etc.
Some couples separate without a court order, perhaps with a written agreement, perhaps with legal assistance, or perhaps not. They do not want to end their marriage, and use legal separation as a long-term state. This sort of arrangement is better referred to as just “separation.”
Legal separation can be chosen for varying reasons. It can be a preparatory, voluntary step towards divorce, taken while the couple tests the waters of separation and decides whether divorce would really be the best thing. Other times, a court can order legal separation while the couple works out issues like child custody and support, distribution of property etc.
Reasons for Legal Separation
- Insurance — one spouse may have insurance and both may want it to continue covering the other spouse. Check the language of your policy carefully in this case, as some companies now have fine print that will lapse the coverage in the event of a legal separation.
- Pensions and social security — some couples want to delay their divorce, but live separately, until they are eligible for those retirement funds. Legal assistance is a good idea in this respect, to make sure that you comply with all government requirements.
- Religion — some couples object to divorce on religious grounds
- Trial separation — a step for couples who hope that they can stay together, but need some space from each other for a while
- Waiting period — the couple wants to live separately while they go through their court-required waiting period for the final decree
Division of Property
If there is property that you would like to keep in the event of a divorce, and you are in a separation period, be sure and get that property into your possession. Later, the court will probably award property according to whose possession it is in. Alternatively, if you have a written separation agreement, be sure to include a note about that property in it.
The same is true of joint accounts. If you have a joint bank account, remember that your spouse can withdraw from it during the separation period. If your names are both on mortgages and utility bills, you are both liable even if only one spouse is in the home. Having both names on credit cards also makes both spouses equally liable, even if only one spouse uses the cards during separation.
We also offer mediation services for couples who would prefer to resolve their divorce in a more amicable manner.
In every separation, there are twists and turns that will likely need good legal assistance for navigation. Please contact our family law attorneys today to schedule your consultation. One of our legal separation attorneys can look at your circumstances and help you avoid hidden dangers. Jacoby & Meyers has offices nationwide.