People often believe that if they file for divorce and move out of the house, any money they earn after the move is theirs, meaning not joint and not divisible by the court. They think, logically, that physical separation must be the same as legal separation.
Not so fast. Getting legally separated is a legal process almost exactly like getting divorced: you divide assets and debts; you determine an amount, if any, of spousal support; you enter into a custody agreement if there are children; you determine the amount of child support. At the end of that process, the judge enters a Judgment of Legal Separation which makes all of those determinations, but also finds that the marriage is not “irretrievably broken” (the words needed to enter a Judgment of Dissolution or divorce).
Being physically separated from your spouse, without a Judgment of Legal Separation, does not make money earned by you your separate, non-marital money; it just means you are living in two separate places. Without a Judgment of Legal Separation or Dissolution of Marriage, you can put your money you earn after your physical separation into an account in your name only, and it’s still marital. The effect of moving out itself does not correlate to earnings becoming non-marital property.
In short, any money you earn or your spouse earns while you are still married is “marital,” and subject to division by a court, regardless of your physical arrangements or any verbal agreements between you and your spouse.
Getting divorced or legally separated means planning for your future and making decisions now that you won’t later regret. For questions about this or any other family law matter, please contact the attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C.