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My spouse and I are not getting along. We have three young children and the constant fighting is wearing us out. We were thinking of living apart of awhile, but then we learned we should become legally separated instead. What’s wrong with just living apart?

While it’s true you can quietly live apart, if your marriage is in trouble, it’s best to find a way to protect your interests—and those of your children’s—before you start living separate lives. That’s why you should consider a legal separation, especially if you live in Connecticut.

If you are not 100 percent certain your marriage is over, becoming legally separated in Connecticut is a good idea: it allows you “try out” what being divorced feels like. If you don’t believe in divorce or are not quite ready to go that far, legal separation carves a quiet space where you can think about your next steps as an individual, a couple, and a family.

Here is one pitfall of living apart versus legal separation: let’s say you casually carve up your household finances and agree on child visitation. Suddenly, your partner accepts a job in another state or simply disappears. What happens then? You will have little or no recourse aside from hiring a divorce attorney and taking the entire matter to court. Your divorce will take a long time to resolve, not to mention become horrifically complicated and potentially expensive.

Better to get a legal separation, which protects you, your children, and your joint assets. Should you decide to get a divorce, the legal separation positions your for spousal support, child support, alimony payments, and retirement benefits.

Here are some benefits of a legal separation in Connecticut:

  • Determine where you and your children will live
  • Provide a temporary support and visitation schedule
  • Establish how daily life continues: who remains in the primary household, who gets which vehicles, how bills are paid, mail handled, and so on.

A legal separation offers one distinct benefit that living apart does not: in Connecticut, a legal separation protects you from being held responsible for any debt, liabilities or taxes your spouse incurs after the date of separation.

While this is not an easy conversation to have, especially if you are already fighting, it is not unreasonable to seek financial protection for both you and your children. You started this family together. If the marriage, and your family closeness, needs to be dissolved, it should be done in the same spirit of togetherness, before bitter battles begin.

What if we become legally separated…but then decide to reconcile?

Legally separated spouses may reconcile, resume their marital relationship and have the legal separation terminated by filing a declaration of resumption (of marital relations) with the court.

If we go through the process of becoming legally separated in Connecticut, when does it become a true divorce?

A legal separation becomes a divorce by filing with the court a motion to convert a legal separation into a dissolution of marriage.

Do I need a divorce attorney to become legally separated in Connecticut?

Yes. A legal separation is essentially the same as getting a divorce—except, at the end, you remain married in name only. Your assets are divided. Alimony, custodial issues, and other necessary benefits are provided for. And, of course, you are living apart.

Because a legal separation can become as complicated as an actual divorce, you should hire a a family law attorney who is an expert in both legal separation and divorce law in Connecticut.

What effect does legal separation have on my prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is designed to help allocate assets in the event of a divorce. In Connecticut, the law states that this must be done equitably, not necessarily fairly. Because a legal separation so closely parallels a divorce, it is wise to seek legal counsel if you have a prenuptial agreement.

At CT Mediation Center, we can answer your questions about prenuptial agreements, legal separation, divorce law and litigation, plus mediated divorce (also known as a friendly, or amicable, divorce), in Connecticut. Please give us a call.