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Legal Separation: Is It A Good Idea?

by Maurice Moore

If a divorce is pending, you have the option to legally separate prior to the filing. Although not everyone chooses to legally separate, you may want to consider doing so for several reasons. A legal separation happens when you and your spouse live apart while you negotiate the terms of your divorce. This period of time can also be viewed as a test to determine whether or not you want to continue with your divorce or make an attempt to work your marriage out. If you do choose to go through with a legal separation, you need to consider how your finances will be impacted during this period of time. The following are some things to consider:

Joint Property

One item to think about during a legal separation is any jointly owned property you have together. When it comes to assets, you do not have the same rights as you would during and after a divorce. You are still legally married even if you are not living together. Therefore, any jointly owned property you own can be utilized by both of you. This includes joint bank accounts, real estate, and tangible property. Your assets will not be formally divided until you divorce. Both you and your spouse have legal access to all of these assets.

This can be a benefit or a drawback. This benefits you if you rely on your joint bank account to fund your everyday expenses. A drawback is the fact that your spouse could legally sell an item without the need to check with you first. If you are worried about shared assets, you may want to skip the legal separation and move forward with the divorce to expedite the asset division process.

Long-Term Legal Separation

Most legal professionals would advise a shorter legal separation if at all possible. If you are not certain that you want to stay married, a better option might be to attend marriage therapy sessions or counseling to move past any problems you have together rather than a legal separation. If you are absolutely positive you want to get divorced, you would be better off going ahead with a divorce without a separation to avoid any potential problems.

If you do want to have a separation, avoid doing so for the long-term. A long-term separation can potentially cause a variety of complications you both likely want to avoid, including financial and emotional pitfalls.

If you are unsure if a legal separation is good for your situation, consider sitting down with a family law attorney to gain some insight based on your own set of circumstances.