One of the most common questions couples have when starting the divorce process is whether they should establish a legal separation prior to getting a divorce. The usefulness of a legal separation is generally quite limited, except in specific situations, so the answer is typically “no.”
Legal Separation vs Divorce
On the surface, a legal separation looks very similar to a divorce. Property is divided up and marital property ceases to exist. Arrangements for custody and child support are also made in cases where minor children are involved. Even so, a legally separated couple is still legally married. Unlike a divorce, both parties must agree to a legal separation before it can be granted. If either spouse wants a divorce instead of a legal separation, the court will rule in favor of the case being converted to a divorce.
Should the couple decide to permanently end the marriage by pursuing a divorce after establishing a legal separation, they will be required to go through the divorce process from start to finish, thus taking up more time and further expenses for both parties. Consequently, it is generally advised that you pursue a divorce in favor of a legal separation. The Schill Law Group can provide legal advice to help you make an informed decision.
Reasons for a Legal Separation
Here are a few situations when a legal separation may be the right course of action:
To Meet Domicile Requirements
In order to get divorced in Arizona, at least one of the spouses is required to have been domiciled in the state for a minimum of 90 days. Legal separations do not have this same requirement. If you are eager to obtain certain protections, it may be wise to file for a legal separation, and then have the case converted to divorce after the 90-day waiting period has ended.
To Honor Religious Beliefs
Some religious beliefs strongly oppose divorce. Devout followers may opt for a legal separation instead of a divorce in order to adhere to their beliefs.
To Stay on a Spouse’s Medical Insurance
In cases where ex-spouses are still on good terms, they may want to allow the other party to remain attached to their medical insurance. In order to do so, the spouses will need to remain legally married so a legal separation is ideal.
Hope of Reconciliation
Finally, some spouses may come to the conclusion that they need a long-term separation but hope to reconcile, which creates the need for property and custodial arrangements found in a legal separation.