The dissolution of a marriage can be a difficult and time consuming process. There are many legal and ethical considerations that must be handled. Legally speaking, there are two options when a married couple decides that they can no longer live together - a legal separation or a divorce.
When you're talking to most people, they use the terms "separated" and "divorced" interchangeably, but these two things are not the same. In fact, they are pretty different and it's important that you understand the distinctions between them.
There are several key differences between the two options. Before you decide on any course of action it is important that you check the laws in your state of residence as family law varies from state to state. Some states do not even allow for a legal separation, although the two spouses can still draw up a legally binding separation agreement on their own, while other states require a legal separation of at least one year before a divorce can be filed for.
A legal separation is a contract drawn up by the courts that allows both parties in a marriage to live separately while still maintaining the rights and responsibilities of marriage. Often it is considered a trial separation, allowing both spouses some room to step away from the anger and fighting of the relationship and cool down before deciding whether they want to remain married or not.
The details of a separation may vary, but here are the basics:
With a legal separation, this can give you time away from each other without having to go through the whole divorce process. If you and your spouse are going through a very difficult time, this separation can give you some space and a cooling down period. There have been countless marriages that have been fixed, just by taking a time of separation.
Another advantage of separation versus divorce is that you will be able to receive the benefits of your spouse. If you are a stay-at-home mom, and you don't have a health insurance plan, and you receive your coverage through your spouse's work, then you would lose that coverage if you were to be divorced. If you're worried about losing those insurance benefits, then a separation might be a better option for you.
Divorce is the final step in the dissolution of a marriage, whether or not you first had a legal separation. Once the divorce papers have been signed by both parties and delivered to the court the marriage no longer exists.The parties no longer have any legal rights or responsibilities to each other except those expressly set in the divorce decree.
Keep in mind that the main difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that a divorce can not be undone. If you are considering leaving your husband, seek the counsel of a family law attorney who is familiar with the domestic laws of your state. Once you know the details, you can make an informed decision about whether a divorce or a legal separation is the right choice for you.
I know that going through the divorce process or the separation process can be confusing and difficult. There are dozens of different factors that you will need to consider and it's an emotional time that will make everything much more difficult. It's important that you look at all of your options to decide which one is going to be best for you and your family.
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