When there’s long-term strife in a marriage, and one or both individuals decide it will be better to part ways, most people assume that divorce is the only option.
But legal separation can also be placed on the table, and may actually make more sense in certain situations. Knowing when to pursue separation over divorce is something every couple should understand.
What is Legal Separation?
One definition for legal separation is “a court-decreed right to live apart, with the rights and obligations of divorced persons, but without divorce. The parties are still married and cannot remarry. A spouse may petition for a legal separation usually on the same basis as for a divorce, and include requests for child custody, alimony, child support and division of property.”
In other words, legal separation is — for all intents and purposes — divorce without the label. It’s generally employed by couples who want to formalize their marriage separation without the finality and legal complications of divorce.
If there’s still some piece of hope that the couple might resolve their issues and come back together, a separation leaves that option open without the need for to go through the process of marriage again.
Four Reasons Couples Choose Legal Separation
If your marriage appears to be collapsing, and you and your spouse are talking about your next move, don’t just assume that divorce is the best or only option. Legal separation exists for a reason, and it could be more advantageous for you to pursue.
Here are four of the primary reasons couples choose separation.
The number-one reason couples opt for legal separation is to gain space. In Indiana, a legal separation can last for a maximum of 12 months. A temporary yet somewhat lengthy timeframe gives the pair time to work out their differences in a safe and structured environment.
If you and your spouse aren’t totally ready to close the door on your marriage and think that there might be a chance to restore what’s been broken, a little space can be healthy. And the good news is you don’t have to wait out the entire 12 months.
Should you both decide that you want to continue the marriage or get a divorce before the year is up, you’re legally allowed to pursue the choice you desire.
- Religious Reasons
In many religions, divorce is regarded with shame. It’s even forbidden by certain sects; it can lead to excommunication if you divorce or marry another individual. This makes it difficult for some couples to undergo divorce.
If you’re strongly religious and worry that a divorce would have negative repercussions in that facet of your life, a legal separation could be a suitable alternative. It gives you the chance to live a happier life of freedom, maintain your status in your religious community, and still have a chance to reunite with your spouse at a later time.
- Financial Benefits
Finances can present a massive challenge in times of marital conflict. And though there are times when it makes sense to obtain the closure of divorce, in your situation a legal separation could be more financially advantageous.
For example, you may still be able to retain spousal benefits — such as medical insurance coverage — when you’re separated. There can also be tax advantages to staying married, such as continuing to file a joint tax return.
Then there are the issues relating to Social Security divorced-spouse benefits. You must be married for at least 10 years to receive benefits from your spouse’s record. If you’ve been married for only nine and a half years, a legal separation would enable you to cross that threshold.
- Satisfies Divorce Prerequisites
Sometimes a legal separation is the next interim step in the process of transitioning from marriage to divorce. It can alleviate some of the extremes that can arise, and somewhat normalizes the process.
As therapist Susan Pease notes, “Once a couple is on the divorce track, the separation is not implemented with the purpose of getting a better perspective on the relationship (although this can happen); rather, it is part of the natural course as each party prepares to go his or her individual way. This is the ‘in-between’ stage of the process.”
Legal separation is safe. It enables you to move in the direction of divorce without fully committing to it right away. When everything else is in flux, having a bit of control can be reassuring.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Attorney
Choosing between legal separation and divorce isn’t easy. Hundreds of factors may come into play, and what works for one couple may not work for you. But how can you possibly know whether you’re making the smartest choices for your future?
One of the best things you can do is to hire an attorney that’s well versed in the intricacies of family law. An experienced lawyer will keep your best interests in mind while you work your way to a solution that makes sense, both financially and emotionally.
When you’re searching for an attorney, look for one that has experience, a strong track record of success, and a solid legal standing in the community. Cost is certainly going to be an issue, but you probably shouldn’t make it the issue.
The difference between a good attorney and an average one can be huge, and you’ll want to ensure you’re getting the best advice and representation you possibly can.
Contact Rowdy G. Williams Law Firm P.C.
At Rowdy G. Williams Law Firm P.C., we take pride in fighting aggressively for our clients to ensure that they receive the best possible outcome they deserve. If you’re looking for the right attorney to guide you through family law issues, then this is the right place.
Whether you’ve already decided on divorce, are considering separation, or you’re unsure which option would be most advantageous in your situation, we can help you make a decision and we promise to fight for you every step of the way. If you’re interested in learning more about our services and how we can help you overcome the challenges you’re facing, please contact us today.
We’re happy to offer you a free initial consultation. We offer both standard weekday appointments and evening meetings by request.