Divorce or Legal Separation: Which option is best for you?
As a family law attorney many people contemplating divorce have asked me whether they should consider a legal separation instead. Let’s start with a basic understanding of legal separation. Legal separation allows for the end of a community relationship between spouses, including the division of property and debts, determining spousal maintenance (alimony), child support, parenting time, and legal decision-making (custody). It is, in effect, a divorce, except that after you are “officially” legally separated, you cannot legally remarry. The legal process is nearly identical to a divorce and may include hearings and a final trial if the parties are unable to settle their differences outside of court. One critical point that people considering legal separation must remember, is that if they later decide they want a divorce, they have to file again, and the previous property division may be re-examined as part of the divorce.
So why would someone choose a legal separation over a divorce? Some people choose legal separation as a way to protect assets. For example, if a spouse was going to embark on a risky financial venture, for which he/she was going to be personally responsible, then the other spouse may wish to protect his/her half of the assets. Other people decide they cannot tolerate living with someone but for religious or insurance reasons do not want a divorce. There are also a number of people who contemplate it, believing that it is a kinder way to let their spouse know they don’t wish to be with them anymore. (Sort of like, “let’s just be friends.”) My advice to people wanting to break the news “gently,” is that it is much kinder to be honest about your true feelings and intentions rather than keeping your spouse hanging onto the idea that there is still a chance of reconciliation.
Although less than 1% of my clients choose to pursue a legal separation instead of a divorce, it may be the right decision for some people. I recommend thoroughly discussing it with an experienced family law attorney so you can determine what is best for your situation. Please call me at (480) 833-1113 to discuss your particular situation.