What Is Legal Separation?

Legal separation is a court order that outlines responsibility for spousal support, child custody, child support, and the division of assets between a couple who live apart but are still married. When a couple is legally separated, they are not eligible to remarry. However, because a legally separated couple is still considered married, they may still share benefits such as retirement or health benefits.

People have a variety of reasons why they may opt for a legal separation instead of a divorce. Some couples may still hope to reconcile but need the physical, emotional and financial distance of a legal separation to see if they can repair their relationship. Others may choose to remain married for religious or social reasons. Regardless of why couples seek a legal separation, you should seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney to guide through all the issues that need to be sorted out.

Issues to Consider for a Legal Separation

  1. Income Taxes – Legally separated spouses are treated as single for federal tax purposes.
  1. Medical Insurance Benefits – Some plans allow for continuance of medical benefits, however not all plans do. You will need to verify with your insurance plan whether or not you or your spouse will be covered if you are legally separated.  However, just like in divorce cases, Cobra benefits may be available if legal separation terminates medical insurance benefits.
  1. Reconciliation – 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.
  1. Conversion from Legal Separation to Dissolution – So long as legally separated spouses have not “resumed their marital relationship,” they may have their divorce finalized by filing with the court a motion to convert a legal separation to dissolution of marriage. A court will typically respect the financial orders entered as part of the judgment of legal separation and not change these when converting the Legal Separation to Dissolution of Marriage. However, the court does have the power to disregard all or part of legal separation financial orders if it determines that the orders are not longer fair and equitable. Working with a qualified divorce attorney can improve the likelihood that the divorce court will approve your legal separation agreement the first time.

Mediation for Legal Separation

Similar to divorce mediation, mediation for a legal separation is an excellent option for couples who want to separate as amicably as possible. An attorney trained in legal separation mediation can guide you through the process of coming to terms that work – as well as possible – for each member of your family. Legal separation mediation has several advantages over a litigated separation. It reduces the stress and uncertainty for children. It can be significantly less expensive and legal separation mediation can take less time than litigation.

Call our offices today if you are considering a legal separation. Our legal separation attorneys will help you work through the issues so your legal separation is likely to be approved by the Court the first time.