The Financial Benefits to a Trial Separation versus a Legal Separation
Finances are not the only thing to consider when you are deciding between a trial separation, a legal separation and a full divorce. However, this difficult decision does have important financial repercussions that should be factored into your decision. The following information details the financial effects to keep in mind as you decide between a separation and a divorce or even between a trial separation and a legal separation.
If you enter into a trial separation, your financial situation will not be changed much from when you lived together as a married couple. The obvious exception is that you will have to maintain two households instead of just one during your trial separation, which is a cost you would likely have to incur if legally separated or divorced anyway. (However, some couples do opt to try out a separation by staying in the same house but using different parts of it in order to avoid having to spend extra money or one spouse having to decrease his or her standard of living by getting an apartment or other accommodations for a few months.) There also may be the added expense of additional child or pet care due to distance or changes in schedules and parental availability because of the trial separation. Nevertheless, there is no legal change to the couple’s financial situation when one decides on a trial separation. The couple can still benefit from filing taxes jointly or having both remain on one spouse’s health care plan. A trial separation also will not cause one spouse to sacrifice claims to marital income that is earned during that time, and there is no negative effect to the spouses’ ability to collect on each other’s Social Security benefits. However, each spouse will still be liable for marital debts incurred by the other spouse even while separated on a trial basis.
Although you are still considered married, a legal separation can change your financial situation. A legal separation can indemnify you against future debts that your spouse enters into, and it can also give you the opportunity to officially split up any existing debts in a formal agreement. Even though creditors will likely still be able to go after you for unpaid debts that your spouse is responsible for per the legal separation agreement, you will be able to bring him or her back to court to enforce the agreement if you end up having to pay off creditors. In addition to the division of debt, your legal separation agreement will also establish the division of assets, the amount of potential spousal support as well as the details of child custody, support and visitation. Although a legal separation agreement does not have to lead to divorce, it often ends up being the basis for a future divorce agreement. If you separate without a legal separation agreement, you may lose out on your fair share of the marital assets if your spouse spends or loses them during the separation, and most of your assets may go to your spouse if you die first. Many couples who opt to get legally separated instead of divorced do so in order to keep one of the spouses on the other one’s health insurance plan. However, many plans expressly prohibit this, so the decision of whether to get a trial separation, legal separation or a divorce is unique to every situation.
Depending on your specific situation, there may be tax or other financial benefits to being divorced or legally separated, but since there are many factors that play into this, you should speak with an attorney about your specific situation. For help with all aspects of your divorce or family law proceeding, call the Law Office of Renkin & Associates. Our attorneys have experience in all areas of family law and are ready to fight on your behalf. Contact the Law Office of Renkin & Associates today for representation in a custody issue or a divorce proceeding.