As life goes on, you and your spouse may one day realize that your marriage isn’t working out as either of you intended. When it comes time to seriously consider disentangling your legal and financial lives, there are two options on the table: legal separation or divorce.
Choosing How to Split Up
While there are plenty of ways in which legal separation and divorce are different, there are a few key ways in which they are very similar. For one, the spouses’ community assets and debts are split as they would be in a divorce. Child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support orders that are common in divorce also occur in legal separations.
Because California is a no-fault state, neither spouse needs to prove or agree with a specific reason to file for divorce or separation. Because the two grounds for either are “irreconcilable differences” and “incurable insanity,” chances are the former will be cited in your separation or divorce.
A legal separation is the more durable of the two options. Whereas divorce completely dissolves your marriage, separation permits spouses to remain married but disentangles one’s life – and consequences of their financial decisions and obligations – from the other’s. If you’re wondering why you would want to remain married to someone but effectively lead separate lives, a legal separation might not be for you. That said, consider some of the reasons why people do it before making your decision.
Why Do People Choose Legal Separation?
One of the main reasons why people choose legal separation is because its effects are almost immediate. Divorce requires a waiting period of six months before finalization occurs, which can be too long to wait for people in certain circumstances.
Legal separation may also be a good option because it’s more flexible than a divorce. As we mentioned above, legal separation allows spouses to remain married while separating their legal and financial lives. Separation, however, doesn’t have to last – it can go on for as long as the spouses need it to, or it may serve as a “trial run” of sorts to help the spouses determine if they really should completely divorce.
Other reasons people choose legal separation include the following:
- There are tax advantages to remain married
- One or both spouses’ religious beliefs do not permit divorce
- One spouse is financially struggling
- One spouse is eligible for government or medical benefits because of the marriage
- One spouse is seeking qualification for Medicaid
- It is unclear if differences between spouses are irreconcilable
A legal separation, however, is only as good as its written agreement. It’s important to have experienced legal counsel help you negotiate and draft this agreement. Doing so can ensure that assets and debts are divided equally between you and your spouse as you both carry on with your separate lives.
Should spouses eventually decide to divorce, and felt their legal separation agreement was a good fit, then they can convert it to a divorce and expedite the overall process.
Why Do People Choose Divorce Instead?
The reasons people want to divorce are often much less complicated than if they are seeking a legal separation. In most cases, people want a divorce because they want to be completely separated from their ex and free to remarry whomever they choose without jumping through an extra hoop.
With major exceptions for child support, child custody, and spousal support obligations, divorce allows two people to completely bow out of each other’s lives for good.
Is a Legal Separation Better Than Divorce?
There is no objective way to answer this question. People may choose separation because they value its flexibility while others may choose divorce because they value its finality. If you and your spouse have hang-ups about divorce, then it’s worth it to talk to an attorney about a legal separation. You can also explore your options in a collaborative divorce, which is a way to separate your lives and dissolve your marriage without involving the courts.
If you feel like you want to talk to an attorney about your options, get in touch with Claery & Hammond, LLP today. We offer each potential client a free consultation to learn more about how our services can address their situation and achieve their goals.