When couples don’t want a divorce yet, legal separation may be the solution.

Separation agreements create a legal relationship between marriage and divorce.

Separation is generally the avenue of choice for people who want to get out of their marriages but not fully abandon all its institutional advantages. It can give a spouse more confidence starting a new life without the permanence of divorce. Essentially the couple agrees to retain some shared financial benefits of marriage while leading separate lives in all other areas of their life. For example, a couple may separate but want to continue existing health insurance coverage or certain military benefits or keep filing a joint tax return together.

Legal separation still requires negotiating custody, support and property division.

Divorce totally severs one spouse’s legal obligation to financially support the other spouse; legal separation does not. With a separation, the spouses continue their respective legal obligations to each other unless modified by a written separation agreement. The agreement defines each spouse’s rights and duties, including how the parties will handle custody, support and property division.

Reasons for separation

To obtain a judgment of separation, you must prove one of the following grounds:

  • Abandonment (actual or constructive)
  • Adultery
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Failure to properly support spouse if at all
  • Spouse’s imprisonment for three or more years

Note that there is no “no fault” option for getting a separation as there is when getting a divorce.

Moving from a Separation Decree to a Judgment of Divorce

While separated, neither person can re-marry until they take the next step and obtain a judgment of divorce. However, either spouse may convert the legal separation into a divorce without the permission of the other spouse after the separation agreement has been in place for one year and provided the spouse seeking the divorce can show that he/she meets one of the seven criteria required to obtain the divorce judgment.

Let’s talk about what you want to do.

We seek to find the best solutions for clients who want a legal separation. Please contact our office to set up an appointment to learn how we can help you move your life forward in a positive direction that best suits your goals.

Case Study: Separation

Facts: A wife wanted to divorce her husband who was a philanderer; but divorce was not an option for religious reasons. The husband had substantial assets,

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