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Is legal separation a good alternative for you?

If things in your marriage haven't been going well lately, you may have discussed with your spouse the possibility of divorce. Maybe you even researched the prospect online or called an attorney or two for free consultations. There may be numerous reasons why you reject the idea of divorce at this stage, among which may be the expense.

However, it may be discouraging to think that you have no choice but to remain indefinitely in this unhappy relationship. You do have another alternative. Many California couples are finding that legal separation is an acceptable way to retain some of the benefits of marriage while gaining many of the advantages of a divorce.

What are the basics of legal separation?

A legal separation protects your rights while you and your spouse live apart. Although the separation does not dissolve your marriage, your legal agreement includes many of the factors common to divorce, for example:

  • You and your spouse will make child custody and visitation arrangements.
  • You will equitably separate your marital assets.
  • You will determine how to fairly divide your debts.
  • You will arrive at an agreement about child and spousal support.

You and your spouse should not make these decisions lightly since, if you eventually decide to divorce, your separation agreement may carry over unless you petition for a new settlement.

How does separation compare to divorce?

Like divorce, you and your spouse will no longer live together. However, in the eyes of the law, your marriage remains intact, so you can continue to participate in your spouse's health benefits and receive other perks associated with married life. Some reasons why you may choose separation over divorce include the following:

  • Your religious beliefs forbid divorce.
  • You and your spouse want time apart to consider whether to remain married.
  • Before you divorce, you or your spouse needs financial stability while returning to the workforce after remaining home with the children.
  • You intend to remain married long enough to qualify for military benefits or a higher amount of Social Security benefits.

Many couples find that legal separation gives them a chance to work through the issues in their marriage well enough to resolve their conflicts and remain married. Others find it is a more positive way to transition into divorce. If you think legal separation may be an alternative for your marriage, you likely have many questions. An attorney can clarify the process and help you decide the best options for you.

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