Legal separation and divorce do share certain elements but the primary difference is that a legal separation does not include the dissolution (i.e. conclusion) of a marriage. A legal separation provides a separated couple with a case-specific court order that outlines the rights of each individual and their responsibilities for as long as they are living apart; the legal status of a marriage is maintained but those involved are permitted to live separately. The most common issues that couples are interested in when approaching separation include collective assets, child custody (including child support as well as visitation schedules, if necessary), and debt responsibility.
The advantages of procuring a legal separation are numerous but the most frequently recognized benefit is that separations can protect numerous interests until the final decision is made to file for and complete a divorce. Separation agreements can provide a framework for the litigation involved in divorce, as expectations and agreements can be explored as the process progresses. Beyond this, legal separations allow couples to remove themselves from the home—where irreconcilable issues can be constant—and potentially maintain those important benefits that marriage provides such as healthcare. Tax benefits, which couples qualified for throughout their marriage, are not effected by legal separation, and so they can still be enjoyed accordingly when separated.
The relative convenience of a legal separation is evident during divorce proceedings, which utilize the conditions and terms of separation agreements to finalize the conclusion of marriage. Attorneys and court officials associated with the proceedings may feel inclined to utilize the structure of a particular separation when legally ending a marriage. For this reason, a legal separation can be the correct choice for certain marriages.
David Isaacson, Attorney at Law, brings his exceptional procedural knowledge and litigation experience to this process. He provides consultation and other legal services through his New City, New York office.
Note: An accurate way of describing a legal separation would be a “pause” in marriage that affords a particular couple the opportunity to resolve financial issues, or a prelude to divorce proceedings that can provide time for preparation.
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