Can You Remain Legally Separated Forever?

Many people are surprised to learn that, yes, you can remain legally separated indefinitely. However, why might a couple choose to do this instead of officially divorcing? The answer to this question is not so simple. While most people view legal separation as a temporary measure, there are situations in which some couples elect to remain legally separated without taking any further action.

Keep reading to learn more about the legal separation process in California.

How Is Legal Separation Different from Divorce?

In California, when a couple decides to end their marital relationship, they have the option of legally separating or divorcing. Divorce is a full, legal termination of the marriage. Meanwhile, a legal separation allows a couple to functionally separate, though they still remain legally married.

Both divorce and legal separation require the couple to go through the following processes:

  • Property division
  • Spousal support
  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Visitation

A key difference between divorce and legal separation is that both parties are free to remarry after a divorce, whereas you cannot remarry if you are legally separated.

Why Might a Couple Decide to Remain Legally Separated Instead of Divorcing?

We are often asked why a couple would choose to remain legally separated indefinitely instead of divorcing. There is no simple answer to this question. Every couple is different, and the circumstances of their relationship and their post-divorce needs will impact their decision. There are benefits and drawbacks to both legal separation and divorce, and working with a skilled attorney, like ours at Burch Shepard Family Law Group, can help you determine which option is best for your situation.

Keep reading to learn more about some of the common reasons couples choose to stay legally separated instead of divorcing.

Financial & Insurance Needs

Divorce has a significant impact on a family’s finances, and the property division process can be incredibly difficult. It can also be very expensive to go from one household with shared expenses to two fully separate households. Consequently, there are situations in which a couple decides to remain legally separated to reduce the long-term financial cost of divorce and/or to avoid dividing or selling specific assets (such as investment properties, business assets, and more).

Furthermore, legal separation instead of divorce has potential tax benefits. Remaining legally separated allows the couple to continue filing their taxes jointly instead of separately, enabling them to continue taking advantage of tax benefits only available to married couples.

Similarly, many people receive their necessary health insurance coverage through their spouse’s employer. After a divorce, they no longer have access to their former spouse’s employer-provided health insurance. This can pose a serious problem for individuals who cannot get or afford insurance on their own.

Social Security Benefits

A couple may choose to remain legally separated to ensure their access to important social security benefits that are only available to couples who remain married for a minimum of 10 years. After a divorce, and if the individual hasn’t remarried, they are then entitled to benefits based on either their own work record or 50% of what their former spouse is eligible for based on their work record. This benefit is particularly important for couples where one person gave up their career to take care of the home and has a significantly reduced income history as a result.

To learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of legal separation, review our blog here.

What to Do If You Are Considering Legal Separation

Are you considering separating from your spouse? If so, you should speak with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options. The decision to separate is a difficult one, but your attorney can help you through the process and guide you to the path that is right for you and your family.

If you are considering separating from your spouse, reach out to our law firm for guidance. Our attorneys are highly experienced and prepared to help you with your case today.