Exploring legal separation as an option when your spouse doesn't want a divorce
Written by Michelle N. Ogborne

Exploring legal separation as an option when your spouse doesn’t want a divorce

Sometimes couples reach a point of needing to split up but do not want a divorce. This may be because you want to reconcile or you just don’t believe in divorce. Either way, it can feel like a big step that you may not be ready to take. If you’re not ready to divorce, a legal separation can provide a good alternative.

In some ways, a legal separation provides similar effects to a divorce. Before you decide, though, you need to know what differs between the two processes. Depending on what you want and need, a separation may provide a helpful option for you and your spouse.

What is Legal Separation?

A legal separation requires the court to issue an order to take effect. It lays out the rights and duties of each spouse. This includes rules for child custody and child visitation. It also explains separation maintenance, which is roughly equivalent to what alimony and child support provide in a divorce.

While you will live apart during a legal separation, you are still married legally. This may allow you to retain some of the benefits of marriage, such as sharing your spouse’s insurance plan and Social Security benefits. You can make medical and financial decisions for each other and retain property rights that you would divide in a divorce. On the other hand, you can still be responsible for each other’s debts.

Legal Separation as a Stepping Stone

For some, legal separation provides a trial period when you are not sure whether you should get a divorce. After all, a divorce cannot be undone, outside of marrying your spouse again. A legal separation can be dissolved by court order if you agree that you want to undo it.

One reason to get a separation rather than a divorce is to create a stepping stone in your relationship. Rather than leaping into divorce or keeping the status quo, you can get a legal separation to see whether you do better apart than you do together. Sometimes the time apart helps you clarify how you feel. You might realize you do better apart, and go on to divorce. You could also decide you still love each other and return to the marriage.

In these cases, a legal separation serves as a temporary stop. It gives you both time to think, plan and decide. The perspective this process affords keeps you from making a quick decision, but also lets you experience life apart. If you aren’t sure what you need, it can help immensely.

An Alternative to Divorce

Besides helping the unsure, a legal separation can help those who don’t want a divorce. You may need to share benefits or income. A legal separation lets you retain access to those benefits in a way you cannot in divorce. In addition, you may have religious reasons why you do not want to divorce. Separation gives you a step in which you can leave your spouse without undermining your beliefs.

Not all marriages can last. Still, choosing between divorce and staying where you are might not give you a good option. If you are unsure what you want to do or feel you cannot divorce, legal separation offers a viable alternative for you. If you want to learn more about how about your options for separating from your spouse, contact Ogborne Law today.