Although divorce doesn’t come to mind when celebrating National Spouse’s Day today, many Americans are now looking for ways to help fix their relationship without ending their marriage legally; including legal separation.
National Spouse’s Day is a chance to celebrate your spouse and show your better half that they are appreciated. Let’s admit it, sometimes married couples need reminders to leave the hamster wheel that is everyday life. January 26, however, can either be the remedy to all couples’ woes, or a sign to explore legal separation.
Here’s a look at legal separation and what it could mean for you depending on your personal situation.
What Is Legal Separation?
A divorce means the marriage is legally over. A legal separation is a court-ordered arrangement where a married couple lives apart, leading separate lives. A legal separation is a popular alternative to a divorce when the parties are unsure of the state of their marriage but want to establish boundaries on finances and responsibilities. Oftentimes this includes separation of assets, custody of dependents, and child support.
Although the reasons for seeking a legal separation vary, there are some common ones worth noting. Some religions prohibit married couples from divorcing and a legal separation grants most of the benefits of a divorce without compromising religious tenets. Also, those unsure of their marital future may opt for a legal separation, hoping for a reconciliation.
When crafting a legal separation, both spouses should thoroughly address any issues about responsibilities, shared assets, or any other situation specific to the marriage that needs to be addressed. If the terms of the agreement are not clearly defined in the petition, the judge won’t be able to help you. Every petition for legal separation must include the following information:
- The legal names of both spouses
- The date and location of the marriage
- The names of any children or dependents of the marriage
- The proposed custody arrangement of the children
- The dates and addresses where the couple began living apart
- Any child support arrangement, as well as any other financial responsibilities to which both parties have agreed
Separation vs. Divorce vs. Annulment
Though a divorce marks the official end of a valid marriage, an annulment treats the marriage as if it had never happened. In other words, a judge grants an annulment indicating that the court does not recognize the arrangement as having been a legally valid marriage. There are a number of scenarios in which a person can request an annulment:
- The marriage was a result of force, fraud, or physical or mental incapacity.
- The marriage took place when one or both spouses were under the influence.
- The marriage took place when one or both spouses were already married.
In most cases, the legal termination of a marriage will result in a divorce. Unlike a separation, a divorce is permanent. This means both spouses are free to remarry. However, depending on the state where the couple lived and how long the marriage lasted a divorce also means the termination of economic benefits such as shared insurance and assets. Ultimately, electing for a divorce over a legal separation is a personal choice.
Pros and Cons of a Legal Separation
Couples may choose to be legally separated rather than getting a divorce for various reasons. But before they make a decision, one must consider the pros and cons associated with separating legally and if it would be a better option than a trial separation or divorce.
- Divorce is a very final process. Even though a couple has determined that they can no longer live together as a couple, they may not be ready to go through a full divorce. They may wish to legally separate and get the distance they need to make the ultimate decision about divorcing with a clear head.
- People elect to legally separate when they have religious or social objections to divorce. In such a scenario, separating legally allows the couple to not violate the religious beliefs and live separately.
- Another reason people elect to legally separate is when they have religious or social objections to divorce. A legal separation allows the couple to live independently of each other without officially divorcing.
- A few people might have the option to remain on their partner’s medical coverage plan in the event that they are legally separated rather than being divorced. There likewise might be other monetary advantages to separating legally over divorce.
- One of the biggest disadvantages to a legal separation is that you and your spouse remain married. If you want to remarry, you will not be able to do so unless you obtain a full divorce. However, if you decide to divorce, having a legal separation already in place can make the divorce process more efficient as you have already agreed on terms.
- With similar legal requirements as a divorce, paperwork, litigation, and trial proceedings, separating legally can be as much taxing as a divorce.
- If you ultimately do decide to divorce, getting a legal separation first can end up costing you more money. Because you must get a court order recognizing your legal separation, you will be subject to court fees. Before going through a legal separation, you should consider the likelihood of divorcing down the road and whether or not a legal separation is more beneficial to you than a full divorce.
Like Illinois, most states allow legal separations—the exceptions are Florida, Delaware, Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The length of the separation process can vary depending on the state and the complexity of the agreement, but the process typically takes around six months to a year. You can begin a legal separation by contacting your family law attorneys at Masters Law Group, or by filing a petition with the Circuit Court Clerk of the appropriate county. For a list of circuit courts, view the Illinois Courts website.
If you are considering a legal separation, you should consult with your lawyer to make sure it is the best decision for you. Every case is different, and your attorney can use their experience to help guide you in making this important decision. At Masters Law Group, our team of attorneys are experienced in handling Legal Separation, and Divorce Cases.
Overall, if you’re exploring legal separation it’s always best to consult an established family law attorney for a clear understanding of what your options are. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.