How Does Legal Separation Differ From Divorce?
In most cases, when a couple has relationship issues they decide to separate. When a married couple decides to split up, there are a few options on the table. Couples can decide to legally separate, or divorce. Although these two choices have similar goals in mind, they have different meanings. Learn how a legal separation differs from a divorce to decide which is better for your situation.
The Main Differences
There are some key differences between to know between divorces and separations. The first deals with the ability to control property. During a divorce, joint property rights may be completely terminated. In the case of a legal separation, a spouse still retains the rights to certain types of property. For example, if one spouse dies during a separation the other may still be able to receive death benefits. This can be a positive for some couples who want to assist each other with economic support.
Another difference concerns health care coverage. A person who is legally separated can remain on a spouse's health insurance plan. This is not the case with divorces. Most insurance companies will not allow a divorced couple to qualify for relative status on health care plans. This also applies to many federal programs, such as Social Security. If one spouse is relying on these funds for support, it is better to do a legal separation.
One issue that often comes up in legal separations is how to deal with community debt. Unlike with a divorce, separated spouses remain liable for joint debts. This means that creditors can continue to seek payment from either party. In a divorce situation, the debt would be divided between the spouses, or assigned to one party only. This is an important consideration when you are deciding between the two choices.
One final thing to think about is whether the relationship is salvageable. It is important to discuss this matter and come to a decision before proceeding further. When a divorce happens, the parties cannot legally reconcile unless they remarry. However, with a legal separation, the parties are free to resume their marriage. This also means that the parties are not free to marry another person during a separation. Therefore, it is really important to know what you want before hiring an experienced attorney.
Other Issues in a Separation
Separations can have different legal consequences depending on the jurisdiction. In some places, property that a spouse obtains after a separation is held as separate property. There can also be child custody issues that play out differently depending on whether a divorce or separation occurs. Therefore, it is important to speak to an experienced lawyer who works in family law. In Utah, contact attorney Terry Spencer for help with any type of family law issues.