When you are starting the process of divorce, there are many factors to consider, including whether you should separate first before officially filing for divorce. Even if you make the decision to separate first, you will have to decide whether to try a trial separation or obtain a legal separation. Before making this decision, it is important to know how your options differ and which one will be most beneficial to you.
A trial separation differs from a legal separation in that there is less formality. Unlike a legal separation, separating on a trial basis does not require a court order. You can just live separately for as long as you both want in order to see if a legal separation or a divorce would be a good next step for your relationship. Some couples may even stay in the same house but divide their areas strategically so that they can avoid each other while maintaining a higher standard of living. However, since there is no court order or any formal agreement in a trial separation, this also means that you may have to continue to cooperate with your spouse on various issues such as when which spouse gets the children, who pays for what bills, where the children will attend school or which extracurricular activities they will be involved in. Most couples who attempt a trial separation are trying to see if their marriage is beyond repair or if they should move on to the next step of getting a legal separation or a divorce.
A legal separation is not quite a divorce, but it has many of the same benefits. For example, to get a legal separation, you need a court order which governs what each spouse is allowed to do as well as what each spouse must do. The court will review the same issues that would come up in a divorce proceeding, and your legal separation agreement will cover the division of property, payments from one spouse to another and child custody or visitation rights. It will also divide up any debts and outline any other rules that the spouses or the court find necessary.
The major difference between legal separation and actual divorce is that until you are divorced, you are still obviously considered to be married for most purposes. Although this means you do not have the finality of a divorce and the benefits that come with it such as the right to remarry, this also means that you are entitled to certain other privileges such as social security benefits or possibly health care benefits under your spouse’s policy. If you do decide to get divorced after already having a legal separation, the court may use the legal separation agreement as a baseline for the divorce decree, but you should not be limited to the legal separation agreement, especially if circumstances have changed.
Each situation is different and requires different legal advice. For help with all aspects of your divorce or separation, call the Law Office of Renkin & Associates. Our attorneys have expertise in all areas of family law and are ready to fight on your behalf to make your transition as smooth as possible. Contact the Law Office of Renkin & Associates today for representation in a custody issue or a divorce proceeding.