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Are We Legally Separated if We’re Getting a Divorce?

December 27, 2016 Blog

When looking to end your marriage, you may find that many different terms are thrown around. While some of these terms or phrases may seem like they’re saying the same thing, they can actually have completely different meanings.

One of the biggest confusions divorcing couples face is in understanding the difference between being legally separated and divorced. While the two may seem like they are talking about the same thing, they’re actually quite different.

What is a legal separation?

When you are legally separated, you’re not actually divorced. In going through a legal separation, you and your spouse are agreeing that you are no longer together but you are not going to go through the process of divorcing at this time.

There are a few benefits to becoming legally separated but not fully divorcing. Many couples will choose to become legally separated while attempting to work through issues that are influencing the marriage or while they decide if divorce is the right decision.

A legal separation works very similarly to a divorce. Just as in a divorce, being legally separated means you will need to work with the court to determine certain terms between you and your spouse.

Child visitation and custody will need to be determined during a legal separation. If child support or spousal support needs to be paid, a court may also need to order that it is rewarded to the other party. Dividing of assets and property will also need to be done in a legal separation.

Not all legal separations are the same. There are different levels of separation that a couple may go through in finding the right situation for them. The level of separation that you and your spouse are doing will influence the court decisions made, what level of support is provided, and how the property is split.

The first kind of legal separation is known as a trial separation. During a trial separation, you and your spouse are testing the waters to see if living independently of one another is the right decision for you. Most trial separations will have a clear time frame that will require a decision once that time is up.

The next kind of legal separation is when you and your spouse are simply living separately. When you are living separately, you and your spouse have decided that staying married is not the best decision for the two of you, yet you are unable to end the marriage at this time for whatever reason. In some states, you will need to live separately for a predetermined amount of time before you’re able to end the divorce.

When living separately, you will need to be aware of what you purchase and the property that you own. While items acquired while living separately are classified differently than items purchased while happily married, you must remember that you are still married.

The last kind of legal separation is a permanent separation. When you have a permanent separation, both you and your spouse are individually responsible for debts, assets, and property acquired under the permanent separation. This means that you do not need to worry about your spouse attempting to claim new property or assets you acquire while you are permanently separated.

Under permanent separation, you and your spouse will still need to share certain accounts until the divorce is finalized. This includes things like paying for the children or other family necessities. Once your divorced is finalized, you will no longer need to share these accounts. The court will help you determine who owes what as far as spousal or child support.

In most circumstances, a legal separation will happen before your divorce can process. By having a separation recognized legally, you can better protect yourself and your assets during the divorce process. However, being legally separated does not mean that you are legally divorced.

If you have more questions about separation and divorce, you will want to contact an expert divorce attorney. By walking you through the difficult challenges and decisions of becoming legally separated and ultimately divorced, an experienced divorce attorney can ensure you’re protected and that you begin your new life on the right foot.



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