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What Does a Legal Separation Mean?

What Does a Legal Separation Mean?

Have you and your spouse been bickering a lot lately? Do you need help resolving disagreements? Do you feel that neither of you is “together” in your marriage anymore?

If so, you must do something to take it back to square one. And that means you and your spouse need to separate.

You might be wondering, “What is a legal separation?” It is an option you can choose when getting divorced. But you need to make sure it’s for the right reasons.

For all you want to know about this process, keep reading.

Defining Legal Separation

Legal separation is a status created by court order in a family law case. It is used when a married couple needs time apart to work out any conflicts or issues surrounding the marriage without dissolving the union entirely.

It allows the spouses to remain married and incur all legal benefits that come with marriage. It will enable the spouses to stay legally married, but it also provides the opportunity not to live together. The specifics of a legal separation differ by state and must be established in court.

Benefits of a Legal Separation

The benefits of a legal separation can help couples decide if this is the right choice. It allows the team to take time away from one another to see if reconciliation is possible.

It can safeguard vital financial resources when one spouse keeps the shared income and assets. It can also create rules around parenting, such as who can provide care, who has the right to make decisions, and other important commitments.

Drawbacks of Legal Separation

The drawbacks of legal separation include limited financial protection as each spouse remains separately liable for the debts they incur. Since legal separation does not legally end the marriage, neither spouse is allowed to remarry at this point.

Each spouse’s medical insurance is no longer linked, and the children of the marriage become eligible for two separate households. Legal separations also incur court costs and the need for legal representation, making it an expensive process.

Legal Separation Requirements

To get a legal separation, an individual must file a petition in their county’s court and meet that state’s legal requirements. The court may order counseling to explain the state of the marriage and legal separation. Legal separation requirements involve residency, filing fees, the term of marital separation, an agreement on property division, alimony amounts, and child support.


Separation can have a significant impact on the residency of spouses. Each person may choose a different place to live, within the same marital house or a separate location. Depending on the state’s laws and the parties’ financial condition, the court will determine which spouse will remain in the marriage home.

Filing Fees

A filing fee must go with the initial filing for legal separation. The filing fee varies by state and court but ranges from $50 to several hundred. The court will determine how the filing fee will be paid, usually split evenly between both parties.

The Term of Marital Separation

This form of separation can occur with or without a written agreement. Those who enter into a written contract may define financial responsibilities and determine the terms of visitation with children, if any.

Legal separation may also result in the same rights regarding taxes, health care, and inheritance two married individuals have. Both parties should seek the guidance of a lawyer to ensure the agreement is valid.

Agreement on Property Division

The agreement protects each party’s rights in financial and property divisions. A legal separation agreement, for instance, can provide specific details of who will remain in the home, who will pay the mortgage, owned property, credit card debts, and any other financial matters.

A legal separation agreement is enforceable in court. It is important to note that even if a legal separation agreement exists, it does not nullify any prior marital contracts, such as a prenuptial agreement. It makes it essential for both parties to have sound legal counsel to ensure their financial security.

Alimony Amounts

During a legal separation, one or both spouses may seek alimony payments from the other. Alimony is a recurring payment to provide financial support to one spouse.

The amount of alimony a spouse may receive is based on several factors. It includes any current or previous financial agreements, differences in incomes, and the duration of the marriage.

The court also considers how much each spouse contributed to the marriage when determining alimony amounts. It includes contributions to the spouse’s education and wages earned during the marriage.

Child Support

Legal separation still allows a child to receive financial support from both parents. A court may order the non-custodial parent to pay a certain amount of child support for a predetermined time.

They must still adhere to their state’s current child support guidelines. The court may need the parents to pay other financial responsibilities, such as college tuition or medical bills.

Common Misconceptions About Legal Separation

Legally separated vs divorced– the common misconceptions about them are that divorce is the same as legally separated. While legal separation can lead to a divorce, it is not automatic. In most cases, a legal separation does not end the marital status, and the couple still has the same rights and responsibilities they did before the break.

Another common misconception between legally separated and divorced is that legally separating means the couple may not be able to receive spousal support or other benefits. It is not true; a couple can decide to stay married while pursuing a legal separation.

A legal separation is a valuable option for couples who are not ready for a full-blown divorce but need the space a break provides, such as if they need to establish practical matters like support or custody arrangements.

Learn More About Legal Separation

A legal separation can benefit those wanting time to plan for the future. Understanding the implications of a legal separation before making a decision is essential. Seeking legal advice is a wise decision to safeguard your rights. Take action and start the process of understanding the legal side of separation.

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