Legal Separation is misunderstood by many as a precursor to Divorce. This is not always the case, nor does a Legal Separation put an end to a marriage. It is simply a solution for couples who can no longer live together, but are not ready to end the marriage. Living separately does not constitute a Legal Separation, in order to protect yourself a petition must be filed with the courts. These cases are easy to file with the cooperation of both parties, and the help of an experienced certified Legal Document Preparer.
A Legal Separations will cover such issues as Child Support and Custody, Spousal Maintenance and Living Arrangements.
There are many different reasons for a couple to Legally Separate instead of filing for a Divorce. One may be so that a spouse would remain insured under the current insurance policy.
Another would be to keep certain retirement, or military benefits. In some of these cases a couple must remain married for 10 year in order to be eligible to receive these benefits. If the couple was married for 9 years they may decide to legally separate for a period of time until that 10 year mark is reached.
Some may request a legal separation due to drug, alcohol, or physical abuse. This may be necessary to protect ones self from the destructive actions of their spouse.
Things that a Legal Separation can do are to protect both parties from legal claims do to debt incurred after the separation decree is entered. Also it defines issues having to do with property. If there is a marital home who is responsible for the mortgage, utilities, and maintenance. If there are joint checking, savings or other accounts it will define who is entitled to use those funds.
It is wise for the parties to transfer the utilities, and other accounts into the sole name of the person responsible for them. The Legal Separation should also cover things that will revert back to the other party in the case of Divorce. These things may be personal possessions, or family heirlooms that may have been left in the home at the time of separation.
In the event the couple decides to Divorce a judge may use the Legal Separation Agreement as a guideline. Since the couple has already divided their property, and has lived with in the terms of that agreement for a period of time the judge may decide to keep that agreement in place. Therefore it is important that issues such as Child Support, Custody, Spousal Maintenance, and who is responsible for major bills, such as mortgages in the legal separation, be the same in the event of a divorce.
It is not always necessary for an Attorney to draw up a Legal Separation. In many states license Legal Document Preparers can draw up the necessary documents under the direction of the client so long as both parties are in agreement. A Legal Document Preparer is a non Attorney and can never give advice therefore they can offer this service at a fraction of the price.
In the case of insurance and retirement it is always wise to check the language of the policy for legal requirements concerning Legal Separation. It is also wise to research your state guidelines concerning Legal Separation as the guidelines may vary from state to state.