If you and your spouse have come to the not-so-easy decision to go your separate ways in your relationship, you might be interested to know that divorce does not necessarily have to be your next step. Not every state’s laws allow for a different avenue, but here in Utah, the law provides another option known as “legal separation” that might benefit you and your spouse more so than a divorce.
Knowing the benefits, similarities, and differences between legal separation and divorce can help you and your spouse make a more informed decision regarding what will work better for you and your family.
What is a Legal Separation?
For the purposes of this article, we have looped two different types of separation under one general term called “legal separation.” In Utah, there are two different types of separation known as temporary separation and separate maintenance. Since the two terms have slightly different rules, regulations, and applications, it is important that you contact a family law specialist to advise you on what is best for your specific situation.
Under a legal separation, spouses live apart but still remain legally married and cannot marry another person. The wife may not change her last name back to her maiden or former last name. Any children born during this legal separation are legally considered the children of the both parents. Child visitation, child and spousal support, and property division is arranged in an agreement called a Decree of Legal Separation, and finances are kept separate. A legal separation is reversible and allows for the family to reunite if the spouses change their minds and want to try living together again at some future point.
What is a Divorce?
Divorce officially dissolves the marriage, and the two parties are free to remarry. Otherwise, divorce is similar to legal separation. A court of law listens to and approves the decision. A separation agreement called a Decree of Divorce is drawn up, dividing assets, property, and time with children, just as with a separation decree.
Why Consider Legal Separation Over Divorce?
Many couples choose legal separation over a divorce due to factors such as religion, cultural beliefs, or personal convictions that may discourage or disapprove of divorce. Also, this avenue allows for time for both parties to work on issues that could result in reconciliation, reuniting the family back under one roof. Alternatively, it allows for the practice and resolution of issues before proceeding with a divorce. A separation might also be a gentler way to prepare the children for a divorce.
More reasons to consider a legal separation include:
- Insurance – Many health and medical insurances do not allow a divorced spouse to remain on the plan. Some couples decide to stay legally married but live separately if one spouse needs the insurance coverage of the other due to a health condition or a job with little or no coverage.
- Military Benefits – Separated spouses still retain their military ID card and insurance coverage.
- Social Security and Pensions – In many cases, a legally separated individual is still eligible to draw on their spouse’s Social Security benefits or pension, which could help pay for necessities. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the requirements to remain eligible for these benefits.
- Taxes – A legal separation allows you and your spouse to continue to file taxes jointly, which may be mutually, economically beneficial.
- Citizenship – Legal separation may be the better option for a spouse who needs extra time to complete their citizenship process.
To be eligible for a legal separation in the state of Utah, you must be legally married and a resident of the state for at least 90 days prior to petitioning for this status.
Do I Need A Lawyer?
Any couple can separate for any length of time at any point in the marriage without court involvement. You and your spouse are considered separated if you live in two different domiciles. However, it is recommended that you hire a lawyer who has experience in family law to help you avoid any oversight when it comes to negotiations or paperwork that may cost you extra time or money.
A legal separation often involves locally specific laws and processes that you may be unaware of, such as the need to separate finances. In addition, a lawyer can help you negotiate, arrange, and prepare the paperwork for custody matters, child and spousal support, and property division. If you are considering a separation in the Salt Lake, Davis, or Weber county areas, please reach out to an experienced divorce and family law practice for help understanding local laws and how they might affect your situation.
Divorce is often the first choice of many who have decided to separate ways in their relationship. If you live in Utah, you should know that there is a different and probably better option for you. Legal separation is allowed in the state of Utah, and it comes with many benefits that can make a difference in your family’s future. Read about that and more in this infographic.