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Benefits and Disadvantages of Legal Separation

Before committing to legal separation, it’s best to know the advantages and disadvantages of the arrangement.

Many married couples view legal separation as a step before divorce, a sort of mediating time that can help them decide whether divorce or reconciliation is the best decision for their relationship.

Depending on your situation, filing for legal separation may not make sense, while for others, it’s a better option than divorce.

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What are the Disadvantages of Legal Separation?

Because of the nature of legal separation, we’ll start with its disadvantages. The three main disadvantages of legal separation include:

  • Legal separations are just as complex as divorces
  • Legal separations cause just as much stress as divorces
  • Legal separations may be unnecessary for your relationship

Though these are all related, each disadvantage touches on a specific aspect of your marriage and pending separation. Here’s how they work.

1. Legal separations are just as complex as divorces.
A legal separation often requires just as much time, paperwork and legal counsel to complete as a divorce. Like divorces, legal separations involve division of property, including debts and assets. Couples who file for legal separation must go through the same process of division as those getting divorced.

That means that for those couples who end up divorcing after the separation, they must go through the process twice. And those who reconcile end up feeling like they already endured the divorce process.

Additionally, legal separations involve litigation and trial proceedings just as divorces do. If you and your spouse can’t agree on issues about child support, custody and division of assets, then you’ll be forced to finalize the issues in court. This can be just as taxing as divorce litigation.

Consider this: because of the cost and time involved in a legal separation, couples can usually forgo the hassle by doing an informal separation, or if they feel reconciliation is not an option, moving straight to filing for divorce.

2. Legal separations cause just as much stress as divorces.
A legal separation may seem like a good “test” to see if a couple should stay married or divorced, but in reality, it’s a test that many couples fail – not because of the relationship itself, but because of the stress involved in the separation process.

Because legal separation is just as complicated as divorce, the stress cause by the proceedings could be the final straw for a couple, placing an extra burden on an otherwise delicate relationship.

Consider this: if you’re viewing legal separation as a way to determine the outcome of your relationship, try using an informal separation instead. It’ll give you the same amount of space without the extra hassle of filing for separation.

3. Legal separations may be unnecessary for your relationship.
Many couples who first ask about legal separation think that it’s a necessary part of figuring out the direction of their marriage. They may think that the formal structure of the separation is like that of a divorce, but without the final dissolution of marriage.

Unfortunately, this is often not the case. By employing an informal separation, couples can achieve many of the same goals – giving each other more space and deciding if being apart is ultimately the best decision  – without the cost and commitment of a legal separation.

Consider this: a legal separation may seem like the only way to decide the future of your marriage, but handling the separation informally, even if at first, can be a better way to quickly gauge the status of your marriage.

What are the Benefits of Legal Separation?

Even with the disadvantages, there are still legitimate reasons to seek a legal separation. Couples who would like to avoid divorce because of personal, religious or cultural reasons can become legally separated and still adhere to their personal beliefs.

Many couples also use separation as a way to skirt healthcare policies. In most cases, divorced spouses may stay on the other spouse’s healthcare plan for a certain amount of time, usually six months or less. But in the case of legal separation, this can be prolonged, depending on a number of factors.

Is Legal Separation a Good Alternative to Divorce?

Because separation often involves the same amount of stress, cost and time as a divorce does, it’s not always a viable alternative to divorce. Couples who see reconciliation as a likely result of their separation can put an informal arrangement in place, while couples on the opposite end of the spectrum can look more closely at divorce.

But for those couples who believe a legal separation is the next best step in their marriage, a family law attorney can help make the process and transition as smooth as possible.

If you have questions about legal separation or divorce, contact Mesa family lawyer Tim Durkin, who’s helped families and couples for years.

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