Legal Separation vs. Divorce


When you're looking for divorce advice in Pasadena, don't forget to consider if a legal separation may be an acceptable alternative to ending your marriage. A legal separation does not give you the right to remarry, but it does give you and your spouse the opportunity to live apart from each other while still enjoying the benefits of being married.

People choose a legal separation over a divorce for many different reasons. Often, they are opposed to divorce on religious or moral grounds. They may want to stay married to take advantage of tax breaks since a legal separation will still allow a couple to file a joint return. Insurance coverage concerns are a reason for legal separation as well. Often, employers will only cover an employee's spouse-resulting in a lack of coverage after the divorce. Sometimes, couples simply choose to file for a legal separation in order to keep open the possibility of reconciling the relationship.

In the military, a marriage must last for at least 15 years in order for both spouses to benefit from insurance and death benefits. Therefore, couples sometimes choose to file a legal separation and then divorce after the 10 year mark.

The process for obtaining a legal separation is fairly straightforward. One person (the petitioner) completes a petition requesting that the court grant a legal separation. After the petition for legal separation is served to the other spouse (the respondent), he or she can file a response agreeing to the terms, counter-petition outlining specific areas of objection, or file a response indicating he or she wants a divorce instead of a legal separation. If the respondent chooses to ignore the petition, he or she is considered in default and the judge has the authority to grant the petition with no input from the respondent at all.

When filing for legal separation, couples must work out many of the same issues they'd need to address if they were filing for divorce. For example, they will need to determine a fair division of property and debts accumulated during the relationship. If they have children together, custody and visitation issues will need to be considered as well.

If, after a legal separation, a divorce is sought, often judges will simply transfer the terms of the separation agreement over to the divorce decree. Therefore, it is essential that you contact a Pasadena divorce lawyer to make sure your legal separation terms will provide adequate protection in the event of a divorce.