Marriages can begin and end in many ways. If you believe that you cannot move forward with your marriage any longer, divorce isn’t your only option. Many couples opt for a legal separation. But how does a legal separation compare to a divorce? And what are the pros and cons of legal separation?
These are good questions to ask because initiating a separation can have a significant effect on your family as a unit and you as an individual. It’s best to make a decision like this after you have sufficient information and the advice of a good lawyer. At Stepanian Law Firm, we are a highly experienced family law team that tenaciously advocates for our clients’ best interests. In this article, we can walk you through some of the advantages and disadvantages of legal separation.
What Happens in a Legal Separation?
If you and your spouse choose to legally separate, the family court makes decisions about the division of your marital property and debts, your obligations to pay spousal and child support, and child custody. The court makes these same decisions in a divorce. If you and your spouse agree on how to resolve these issues, you can write a separation agreement for the court to enforce. While entering a separation agreement with your spouse sounds like a simple option, don’t assume that it’s a do-it-yourself undertaking. The separation terms you agree to can have significant and long-lasting consequences. A skilled attorney can best spot potential pitfalls in your separation agreement and negotiate the terms most beneficial to you.
With a legal separation, you and your spouse can live separate lives with separate financial obligations, but unlike a divorce, you’re still legally married.
The Pros of a Legal Separation
Depending on who you are, choosing a legal separation over a divorce might be a good option for multiple reasons, including:
No longer having to pay for your spouse’s debts;
Avoiding divorce (if you have religious objections) while still parting from your spouse;
Having the ability to test out living separately without the finality of a divorce; and
Being able to stay on your spouse’s health insurance after parting ways.
Some couples may not need the finality of a divorce to address an impasse in their marriage, and a separation could be the solution that works best for them.
The Cons of a Legal Separation
The word “separation” might not sound as heavy as the word “divorce,” but the legal separation process has its own set of pitfalls and stresses. Disadvantages of legal separation include:
The inability to legally remarry;
Extra cost if you later decide to divorce; and
Lack of a no-fault option.
In some ways, a legal separation can be more costly and more personally intrusive than a standard divorce.
You Cannot Remarry If You’re Legally Separated
Legally separated couples are still legally married. This means that you cannot remarry another person if you’re separated. If your goal is to marry another person, legal separation is not a good option for parting from your current spouse.
If You Ultimately Decide to Divorce, You Have to File Additional Paperwork and Pay Additional Legal Fees
In general, you have to pay court costs to legally separate from your spouse. If you later decide that you want a divorce from your spouse, you have to request a divorce from the court and pay court costs to file for divorce. In cases of legal separation that conclude with divorces, couples could pay double the court costs for the same result.
One Spouse Must Take the Blame in a Legal Separation
Ending a marriage is often fraught with stress, but sometimes you can ease the tension in a divorce by filing for a no-fault divorce. In a no-fault divorce, to obtain a divorce, all you have to say to the court is that your marriage has be irretrievably broken for a period of 6-months. With the no-fault option, you can avoid the conflict that often comes with casting blame on your spouse. If you want a legal separation, you don’t have a no-fault option. To have legal grounds for separation, you must prove that your spouse mistreated you or was convicted of a crime that resulted in a lengthy prison sentence. Assigning fault in a separation can increase tensions between you and your spouse and expose many personal issues that you hoped to keep private.
Contact Our Legal Team for Guidance and Protection
Initiating a legal separation can feel lonely, but you don’t have to do it alone. We hope you don’t do it alone. You deserve to have someone looking out for your best interests in a time like this. At Stepanian Law Firm, we have the experience, compassion, and skill to make sure your needs are met in court. Reach out to us if you need help. You can call us at 646-596-6874 or contact us on our website.