When a marriage is in trouble, deciding your next step is difficult. Some may jump to a divorce, preferring a clean break and a fresh start. It’s easy to overlook another option, legal separation. For many, there are benefits to choosing a legal separation over a divorce.
When you are separated, you are making a legal declaration. Essentially, you are telling the state that you would like to remain married, but you will no longer function as a couple. This means you will probably live apart, have little contact with one another, date other people, and so on. It’s a way of continuing to reap the benefits of marriage without maintaining the emotional commitment involved.
Here are some advantages to getting separated rather than divorced.
Staying Married Could Help Your Finances
Depending on your situation, remaining legally married may be better for you economically. Some military spouses, for example, rely on certain benefits. The same is true for certain tax or disability programs.
You Can Retain Health Benefits
Imagine a couple where one works and the other manages the kids and the home. If they divorce, they are severing their status as family members. Spousal support will help the unemployed parent, but it may not be enough to cover their medical expenses. By opting for a legal separation, they can still get the healthcare they need.
A Separation Could Help You Culturally
Not everyone has a relaxed attitude toward divorce. Many religious and cultural groups still frown on the very idea. If you belong to a strict upbringing, getting divorced could sever your familial or religious ties. By getting separated, you can still be married while keeping distance from a relationship that isn’t serving you.
A Separation May Be Easier Emotionally
Divorce is an act of finality. Once the marriage is over, it is truly over. This can be too much to bear for some. Perhaps they still have hope for fixing the relationship. Maybe there still is love there, but each person can’t continue the way things are going. Legal separation gives you distance from an unhealthy situation while potentially offering hope for renewal.
Separating Can Be Good for the Relationship
As mentioned above, some are not ready to completely let go and get a divorce. If both spouses feel this way, think of the good having some distance can do. It can give each of them time to reflect on the union. They can get back in touch with who they are and what they want. Sometimes, this soul-searching leads people back to one another. Other times, it leads to the ending of the relationship.
It sounds like a contradiction: Ending the marriage is better for the relationship. However, consider this. If the marriage has become foundationally unhealthy, getting back together isn’t going to fix it. Sometimes there is no saving something that has become sick, and the best solution is to destroy it. By taking a break, both parties could come to this same conclusion. If they agree, they may even have the chance to continue the relationship as friends. When that’s not possible, ending things is better than trying to endure something that has grown toxic.
The Separation Process
California’s process for legal separation is similar to a divorce. One partner files the necessary paperwork and pays the legal fees. The other party is served a notice, informing them of the separation. Separation can also function like a divorce, ordering spousal or child support.
Of course, you can enter the separation alongside your spouse. Making this decision together keeps one party from feeling blindsided or betrayed. You can also work out the details of any support or property decisions, keeping those decisions out of the hands of the court.
If you need help filing for a legal separation, contact our office today. You can reach us online or at (949) 565-4158.