The decision to split up a marriage carries a lot of weight for all involved. Legal separation and divorce are similar but different enough to warrant discussion. There can be some benefits to opting for the former rather than the latter. Understanding both will help you determine which will be right for you.

Similarities and Differences

While getting a legal separation involves many of the same steps as getting a divorce, there are some distinctions. Both divorce and legal separation have determining child custody, visitation, and support, alimony, and the division of assets and debts in common. Though the couple primarily comes up with the agreement details, the judge decrees it, so that it becomes part of a court order once the petition is granted and the separation or divorce is final.

In most states like Montana, the process of filing either a divorce or legal separation is almost identical as far as paperwork and procedure. The cost is relatively the same and well. Once a divorce is final, you are single again. However, in a legal separation, you are still considered married and cannot remarry during that time. If one of the spouses is a non-US citizen, avoiding a divorce can help keep immigration issues from arising.

The primary benefit to filing a legal separation instead of a divorce is that you can save money by filing joint taxes. The secondary reason is that sometimes health care coverage is not lost in a legal separation. A legal separation can also allow temperatures to cool down in the relationship so that property and custody issues can be adjusted when passions have subsided.

Common Types of Trial Separations

Having a skilled attorney by your side to give you the support and guidance throughout every step of the process can eliminate a lot of worry, fear, wonder, and doubt when it comes to getting a divorce. There are two more common types of trial separations:

A trial separation is helpful when you need a cooling-off period where you can live apart and investigate either reconciliation or divorce. You continue to share income and expenses, including property and debt payments, while you work on setting some rules about property ownership and the future of child custody. At this point, an informal agreement would suffice to get you started on the legal separation journey assuming there is enough amicable communication to keep things stable.

Permanent separation is when you live separately from your spouse without intending to reconcile, but you are not yet legally divorced, you are deemed permanently separated. That can be a term of six months or more. Filing for a divorce after a legal separation has been done is easier. Assuming all the other areas of a usual divorce have been handled in the legal separation such as asset and debt division, alimony, child support and custody, residences, etc, going from legally separated to divorced would be a mere formality with some paperwork.

Contact S. DeBoer Today

When you need legal counsel, reach out to S. DeBoer, Attorney at Law, for expert advice on the process of divorce and legal separation. As a mediator and family law specialist over the last dozen years, Stephanie has helped clients all over Montana to handle family legal affairs with dignity and confidence. Contact the office today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.