Benefits and Disadvantages of Legal Separation in Arizona


A legal separation is an alternative to divorce for some married couples and can offer an opportunity to reassess their marriage and determine next steps. 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.

In Arizona, legal separation is discussed under A.R.S. 25-313, which states that the court will grant a separation if a marriage is irretrievably broken or if both parties desire to live separately. The statute also states that both parties can agree to end the separation at any time to reinstate the marriage.

Depending on your situation, filing for legal separation may not make sense, while for others, it’s a better option than going through a divorce. Before committing to legal separation, it’s best to know the advantages and disadvantages of the arrangement.

Legal Separation vs. Divorce in Arizona

Legal separation and divorce are separate processes with different end results, but they do share several similarities. Unlike a divorce, which terminates a marriage, a legal separation allows the marriage to remain intact but provides an arrangement where both parties can live separately under agreed-upon terms.

Some of the similarities between a separation and divorce include:

  • Legal separation ends any financial relationship between spouses.
  • There will no longer be a community property relationship between the two.
  • Both parties will have to negotiate the division of property,  child custody, and child support.

Meanwhile, the differences are:

  • A legally separated couple will still be married and unable to marry other people.
  • Because a separated couple is still married, they can still benefit from staying on the same health insurance policy long-term.
  • Under A.R.S. 25-313, both parties must agree to a legal separation, unlike a divorce where either one or both spouses can pursue a dissolution.

What are the Disadvantages of Legal Separation?

Although it may make sense for some couples, legal separation is inherently difficult and often viewed as a step before divorce. For already struggling marriages, the processes and procedures involved in a legal separation can add additional stress and strain that reduce the chances of reconciliation.

Because of the nature of legal separation, we’ll start with its disadvantages. There are three main disadvantages of legal separation. Though they are all related, each disadvantage touches on a specific aspect of your marriage and pending separation.

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.

Therefore, couples who end up divorcing after the separation must go through the process twice. Meanwhile, 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.

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

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.

Legal separations cause stress in the following ways:

  • Because legal separation is just as complicated as divorce, the stress caused by the proceedings could be the final straw for a couple, leading to further disputes and placing an extra burden on an otherwise delicate relationship.
  • Emotionally, a legal separation is often just as difficult as divorce for both parties, as it’s never easy to confront that a marriage may no longer be the best option.
  • The separation process can be difficult on children, who may be left to deal with the stress of watching their parents separate and stuck in limbo surrounding whether their parents may get back together.

If you’re viewing legal separation as a way to determine the outcome of your relationship, you may want to consider an informal separation instead. An informal separation allows a couple to decide between themselves to live separately and differentiate finances without a lengthy legal process. It’ll give you the same amount of space without the extra hassle of filing for separation.

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.

For some couples, this separation may provide insight into whether they truly want to follow through on a divorce. Many couples hope that having the space and organized terms of a legal separation can help them decide whether they may want to take steps to repair a 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.

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. Some of the benefits of pursuing a legal separation include:

  • A legal separation can provide an opportunity for reconciliation in situations where two spouses may need some distance to hash out their concerns
  • 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 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.

Ultimately, what works for one couple will be different from what works for others. In some cases, a legal separation can make sense, while in others, it may only be delaying divorce.

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 may want to consider looking more closely at divorce.

However, the choice ultimately depends on your unique case. A legal separation may benefit couples who want to separate and have legal grounds in place to clarify the terms of the agreement. It can also be a good option for those who prefer to avoid divorce for religious reasons or want to remain on their spouse’s health insurance plan.

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.

Get Help with Legal Separation & Divorce in Arizona

A legal separation can be a viable alternative to a divorce, but it’s important to weigh the benefits and disadvantages. A legal separation can offer couples a chance at reconciliation or the opportunity to separate without losing certain legal benefits like health insurance.

Whether a legal separation or divorce makes the most sense for you, JacksonWhite Law can help. Our Family Law team has over a decade of experience handling family law issues and can help you determine the best path forward and navigate your divorce or legal separation for the best possible result.

If you have questions about legal separation or divorce, call the Family Law Team at (480) 418-7896 to discuss your case today.

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