Legal separation is not the same as “being separated” with one spouse moving out for a while. Just as in a divorce, papers are filed and both spouses can appear before a judge. The process is similar to that of a divorce, but does not end the marriage. The judge will specify the rules detailing the obligations and responsibilities of each spouse relating to spousal support, child support, and child custody. Additionally, the judge may specify which spouse can stay in the marital residence. Property is typically not divided up unless the parties agree for that to occur and file the appropriate papers with the court.
There are several reasons legal separation may be sought:
- It can permit one spouse to obtain reasonable support and maintenance from the other. This is the most common reason that a request is filed.
- Some people will not seek a divorce for religious reasons. Legal separation can address all of the technical, financial, and legal details that a divorce would, but leaves the marriage intact.
- In the case of lengthy divorce proceedings, property can be valued and awarded without waiting for the final divorce to be granted. This action may help the parties shelter assets or gain a tax advantage.
- Assets obtained by either party during a legal separation are not considered as marital property. Neither spouse can make any claims to property acquired by the other spouse during a legal separation. The marital financial estate is closed and separate new estates are established.
- Legal separation can allow a spouse to continue using the medical insurance of the other.
A legal separation is not a prerequisite before you get divorced, but at any time, it can be converted into a divorce. Both parties must follow court procedures, but the course of action is relatively straightforward. Frequently, a legal separation can make the subsequent divorce more amicable.
Specific requirements must be met to obtain a legal separation. Your attorney must file a petition with the court requesting that the court grant the judgment. It must establish that the parties are currently living separate and apart, and the party requesting the judgment is without fault in causing the separation.
To have an experienced attorney at your side through this difficult and sometimes confusing process, call Corey M. Bandes and Associates at (312) 456-9309 today.