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Legal Separation

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You may have considered divorce but are worried you’ll regret your decision. Many states offer a middle ground between marriage and divorce: legal separation.

Simply living separately from your spouse does not constitute legal separation. Legal separation involves the divorce court because you must file a petition for legal separation. Although separation is often a step toward divorce, not all separations end in divorce court. If you and your spouse decide to get back together, you probably won’t take further legal steps. Some couples may simply remain legally separated.

What Happens in a Legal Separation?

If you enter into legal separation, you must follow guidelines assigned by the court. When agreeing on terms, keep in mind:

  • Workable terms: If you decide a divorce is best, the terms of the separation could impact the terms of the divorce. It's also possible that your legal separation could last for a long period of time. Make sure the conditions outlined by the separation documents will work in the future.
  • Protect yourself: Since the terms of your separation could last longer, invest time and effort to make sure your best interests are protected. A divorce lawyer can help you determine what conditions are appropriate.

Potential Advantages of Legal Separation

Laws on legal separation are different in each state. Separation can serve as legal grounds for divorce in some places; elsewhere, legal separation may not be recognized. If your state permits legal separation, how could it benefit you?

  • Considered a trial period for couples not ready for divorce
  • May continue receiving medical benefits that would stop after divorce
  • If you remain married for 10 years, spouses can become eligible for Social Security benefits
  • If your religion prohibits divorce, you can remove yourself from an unhappy marriage
  • Money paid to your spouse during a separation for support may be tax deductible
  • Legal documentation may protect you from a spouse not following the terms of separation
  • Protect yourself from debt your spouse incurs during separation

Find a Divorce Lawyer to Learn about Legal Separation

Total Divorce can connect you with a local divorce lawyer who can further explain legal separation options to you, develop workable terms for separation and help you protect your rights in case your separation ends in divorce. Fill out a divorce case review form or call 877-349-1310 to set up a preliminary consultation today.