Many people believe that filing for legal separation is a step on the way toward the divorce process, but these are actually two completely separate legal processes. A divorce is filed when a marriage is “irretrievably broken, without prospect of reconciliation.” Divorce dissolves the marriage entirely, returning the former spouses to a “single” status. In a legal separation, the spouses assert that they “desire to live separate and apart.” They remain married, but the court enters orders for division of property and debts, custody of children and family support obligations.
Here we list common reasons why someone might choose legal separation over divorce.
If you are still married and thinking about getting divorced or legally separated, you should know that Collaborative Divorce is a more peaceful option. In this process, you and your spouse brainstorm ideas and rely on the guidance of legal, financial and communication professionals to assist in reaching a settlement agreement. There are many benefits of choosing a collaborative process when you want a healthy and satisfactory separation experience.
Reasons For Legal Separation
- Undecided. If spouses are not sure they want to divorce, a legal separation might be a good place to start. If spouses decide to reconcile the relationship, they can reverse the legal separation. There will be no need to get remarried because the marriage never technically ended. Legal separation provides a step between marriage and divorce when one or both each of the parties aren’t emotionally ready for the permanence of divorce.
- Kids. Many people are concerned about how a divorce can affect their children. Some couples choose to legally separate until the kids are grown and then get divorced.
- Religion or Preference. Legal separation can be used by couples who do not want to fully dissolve the marriage or do not plan to get remarried soon. Some couples choose it because they would rather live separately, others choose it because their religion doesn’t allow divorce, or they want to maintain their vows. McKinleyIrvin says one of the most common reasons to get a legal separation instead of a divorce is “to avoid the stigma which may be attached to divorce, including feelings of shame, disgrace, or failure.“
- Necessary Division: For couples that live in states that require a lengthy period of separation prior to filing a divorce, legal separation may a good alternative. Throughout the separation period, the couple may resolve concerns associated with the marriage like property division. Becoming legally separated prevents the couple’s debts and assets becoming increasingly entangled throughout the separation period. Note: Arizona does not require a period of separation prior to filing for divorce unless the parties have entered into a covenant marriage.
- Benefits. Simply stated, divorce and legal separation create financial boundaries and rules that both of you are required to live by. According to LegalZoom, “If you get a legal separation, you are still entitled to certain benefits, such as Social Security and pensions that provide payments to surviving spouses.” In addition, many employers allow an employee to continue covering their legally separated spouse on medical insurance benefits, whereas this opportunity is not available to a couple who has divorced.
- To Separate Property. Legal separation will result in orders that divide marital debts and assets. In Arizona, the accumulation of community property terminates upon the service of a Petition for divorce or legal separation. Property or debts accumulated after service are treated as separate property in a legal separation, just as in a divorce. If you and your spouse want to remain married but safeguard yourselves from the other’s accumulation of personal debts or future business ventures, legal separation might be a viable option.
- Tax Benefits. There are certain tax benefits you can receive from being married. According to Protective, “A legal separation also allows you and your spouse to continue filing taxes jointly, which can lead to some tax benefits.” Check with a tax professional to see if this provision applies in your situation.
- Establish Rights. Some couples choose to physically separate without filing anything with the court. This may be the case if the parents can agree on the resolution of issues such as child support or parenting time without getting the court involved. Other couples aren’t able to make these agreements and rely on the court to enter orders regarding these types of issues. FamilyFindLaw says, “Additionally, couples can reap the benefits of legal clarity similar to divorce orders. Property rights between the two parties are divvied up, as are child custody, child support and spousal support rights and obligations.”
Collaborative Divorce is Less Expensive & More Efficient
Divorce litigation can be emotionally draining for you, your spouse, and your children. But it doesn’t have to be that way with the collaborative process in Arizona. The collaborative process can result in a less expensive, more efficient, and less harmful outcome for everyone involved. The legal, financial, and communication professionals with Best Legal Choices can help you navigate this difficult time in your life.