Welcome to the Separation department of Divorce and FamilyLawService Center. Here we will discuss the different types of marital separations both informal and legal. We will also talk about why couples would choose separation instead of divorce and whether or not couples must follow through with a divorce once the separation process has been started.

Marital separations fall into two categories: informal and legal.

Informal separation

Informal separations can be drawn up between two people in a marriage or common law marriage and do not need to be filed in a court to be legally binding. They are basically a contract between two people. Of course a lawyer can spell out the contract between two people if desired. If one spouse violates the contract, the other spouse can sue for breach of contract. If the couple do decide to divorce in the future, they can ask the judge to include their contract in the final judgement. Or the couple work out their differences, they may once again live together as married.

Trial Separation: This means the couple has decided to take some time apart and decide if divorce is the best course of action. Any assets or debts accumulated during this time apart are typically considered jointly owned, even if the couple decides to divorce in the future.

Living Apart: This means the couple are each living in separate residences and there is no longer a family home. In some states if there is no intention to reunite, any assets or debts accumulated during this period belong to each individual separately. Other states don’t consider accumulated assets and debts separate until after paperwork for divorce or legal separation has been filed. Be sure to check the laws in your state.

Permanent Separation: This means the couple intends to split up. Again it is important to know your state’s laws because they differ. Some states consider assets and debts separate at the date of permanent separation. Other states consider assets separate but debts accumulated for the welfare of family jointly shared.

Legal Separation

Legal separation does not end the marriage but it is a court approved separation that establishes enforceable rights and obligations. These rights and obligations may pertain to child custody, child visitation, child support, division of property, and spousal support among other things. Some states mandate a period of time when the couple must be separated before a divorce will be granted. A legal separation is not a divorce. Divorce proceeding must still happen to legally end the marriage. During a legal separation, the marriage still legally exists and reconciliation between the couple is possible simply by letting the court know you both have changed your mind.

Why Choose Separation?

Legal separation is not divorce, but it can be an option for some people over divorce due to religious reasons. Other people find tax advantages in legal separation.

Please note: one would be committing a crime if they were to marry another without first being divorced from a previous spouse.