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Legal Separation: What Is It and Should I Get One?

By Amy Rebecca Johnson

Your marriage is in trouble. You are contemplating divorce but feel that there is a possibility that with some work, you can get the marriage back on track. There may be an alternative for you that will disassemble your marriage, but not end it. This option is called “legal separation.” Legal separation is certainly less common than divorce, but there are some reasons why it might be the right choice for you and your spouse:

  • Moral or Religious Opposition to Divorce.
  • Health Insurance Plans. Some Health Insurance plans allow for a spouse to continue to be covered under your plan if you are legally separated rather than divorced.
  • Economic Benefits. To be eligible to receive Social Security benefits of your spouse or ex-spouse you have to have been married for ten years or more.
  • Current Troubling Circumstances. Maybe your spouse is an alcoholic, a drug addict, or there is another circumstance making your marriage presently unsustainable, but there is a likelihood that the marriage can be preserved once the circumstance is resolved through efforts such as counseling or a rehab program.

In a legal separation, you are still awarded all the legal protections associated with divorce (such as provisions for child custody, child support, maintenance, and division of property and debt) without actually ending your marriage. It should be noted, of course that if you are legally separated, you cannot marry another person.

However, please be aware that even though you are requesting a legal separation, your spouse can still choose to file a petition for dissolution at the same time. Simply filing for a legal separation does not ensure that your marriage will not be dissolved; rather the issue of whether the marriage is indeed irretrievably broken will be determined by the court.

For questions about this or other issues arising during divorce or legal separation, contact one of the family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C.


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