In basic terms, a legal separation is similar to a divorce or dissolution of marriage. You still need to negotiate child custody, decide on visitation and child support, spousal support and divide marital property. The difference is that when dealing with a legal separation, the couple is still legally married even though they are living separately. When considering their choices some find themselves wondering what the purpose of a legal separation is and the answer depends on the situation at hand.
Legal Separation Can be Beneficial for Couples Who are Unsure: Some couples turn to a legal separation as a type of “trial separation” allowing them to decide whether or not they want to pursue a formal legal action to seek divorce.
Some States Require a Legal Separation Prior to Divorce: Divorce laws vary state to state, so when considering divorce, it is best to consult with an experienced divorce attorney regarding whether or not a legal separation is required before you can file for a divorce.
Legal Separation Can Be Financially Beneficial: In some situations, a legal situation can provide financial benefits in comparison to divorce. If a marriage has lasted 10 or more years, a divorced spouse who has not remarried is entitled at age 62 to social security benefits equal to the greater of 1) benefits based on their own work record or 2) 50% of the benefits their higher income earning ex is entitled to based on their work record. Some people who have been married less than 10 years will seek legal separation until after the 10-year mark and then get divorced. Others choose to opt for a legal separation rather than a divorce to continue to access health benefits through their spouse’s plan. Employer health plans do not offer coverage for employee’s ex-spouse. Separating may provide a solution to this problem, depending on the benefit package. Other couples choose legal separation due to the tax benefits of filing jointly or to retain certain military benefits, etc.
Other Benefits Of Legal Separation: Some couples regard legal separation as a solution for religious reasons that may prevent them from seeking a divorce. Some couples still love each other, but just can’t live with each other so they turn to a separation. There is obviously a myriad of reasons to legally separate rather than divorce and making the decision can be quote complex.