7 Reasons People Choose Legal Separation Over Divorce

Ending a marriage is a very difficult and personal decision to make. When most people think of a husband and wife "breaking up," they think of the couple getting a divorce. However, many states offer another option for couples who need to separate. This is called legal separation. 

One partner simply moving out is not considered legal separation. A legal separation agreement goes through the court, and typically involves a family law attorney like those at the Law Office of Shelli Wright Johnson. It consists of a legal document that is signed by both parties. This document outlines things such as living arrangements, child custody arrangements, spousal support, and division of assets and debts. Since a legal separation is a binding, legal document, if one partner fails to hold up their end of the agreement, the other party is protected.  

A legal separation sounds quite similar to a divorce, so why do couples opt to for legal separation instead of simply getting divorced? There are several reasons.

Why Choose Legal Separation?

  1. State Requirement Some states actually require a legal separation to occur prior to a divorce. 
  2. Maintain Benefits Legal separation could allow one spouse to remain on the other spouse's health insurance plan. If this is a primary reason in choosing legal separation over a divorce, it is important to read the small print on the health insurance plan. Some plans will not allow the spouse to remain covered in this event.  
  3. 10-Year Military Benefits A couple with one partner in the military may want to try to ride out the marriage until the 10 year point. At this point, the spouse will receive certain military benefits in the future, including a portion of military retirement pay.
  4. Social Security Benefits If a couple is married for 10 years prior to divorce, they could qualify for social security divorced spouse benefits. 
  5. Tax Benefits There is a chance that a legally separated couple can receive certain tax benefits, since they are still technically married and can usually still file taxes jointly. Since taxes are complicated, it is a good idea to utilize a tax professional in these circumstances. 
  6. Financial Protection If the couple wants to test out a separation period, legal separation protects assets and limits financial liability. Without a legal separation, if one partner is irresponsible with money and makes poor financial decisions, the other partner will still be liable for it. 
  7. Religious Purposes Some people will choose legal separation over divorce because it allows them to remain married in the eyes of the church.