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Different Types of Separation

What it means to be separated – Find out the differences between trial, permanent, and legal separation.

Concerning marriages, it isn’t the same as getting divorced—even when you have a “judgment of separation” from the court. Separation means that you are living separate from your spouse but are legally still married to them until you acquire a judgment of divorce. Even though a separation does not terminate your marriage, it does impact the financial obligations between you and your spouse prior to the divorce being finalized.

There are 3 kinds: trial separations, permanent separations, and legal separations. In a lot of states, only one (legal separation) will change your legal status—but all 3 have the possibility to impact your legal rights.

Trial Separation

When considering a break from marriage, a trial involves living apart to decide on divorce. Legally, little changes during this period—all laws regarding marital property still apply. For example, income and purchases made during the separation are typically considered jointly-owned property, subject to state rules.

If reconciliation is the goal, creating an informal trial separation agreement is wise. This may address sharing a joint account, budgeting, home occupancy, expense sharing, and, for parents, arrangements for spending time with children.

If divorce becomes the choice, the trial separation agreement can serve as a basis for a marital settlement agreement. If reconciliation seems unlikely, the trial separation becomes a permanent separation.

Permanent Separation

When living away from your spouse without any objective to reconcile, but are not divorced, the law deems you permanently separated.

The Way Permanent Separation is Going to Impact Your Rights

Subject to the laws in which you live, permanent separations can alter property rights between a married couple. For instance, in many states, assets and debts obtained throughout a permanent separation belong entirely to the spouse that obtains them. After you are permanently separated, each of the spouses becomes entirely responsible for any debts they incur. Likewise, spouses that are permanently separated are not entitled any longer to any portion of property or income obtained by the other.

Why the Date of Permanent Separation is Important

The exact date can lead to conflicts over property and debt responsibilities. If unclear, disputes may arise. For example, if a spouse leaves for weeks but divorce isn’t discussed for a month, determining the permanent separation date becomes contentious. This matters because financial gains, like a bonus during this period, might be subject to division.

Moving out without expecting a reunion is crucial for clarity. Temporary reunions can alter the separation date, making you responsible for your spouse’s financial actions during that period.

After a permanent separation with agreed asset and debt arrangements, immediate divorce isn’t mandatory. Reasons for delay may include avoiding disruption to children’s lives or

Does My State Require Separation Prior to Divorce?

In many states, laws mandate spouses to live separately before a court finalizes their divorce. These laws vary; some require spouses to live “separately and apart” before filing for divorce, while others don’t mandate it until after filing. Filing before meeting requirements may result in case dismissal in some states, while others require separation during the divorce process.

Legal Separation

In some states, you can legally separate by filing a petition in family court, which doesn’t allow remarriage. A judge grants it enters an order covering property, spousal maintenance, and child matters, similar to a divorce decree. If spouses later divorce, they may use the order’s terms in settlement agreements. People choose it for reasons like spiritual beliefs, maintaining family unity for children, retaining health insurance benefits, or a preference for separate lives without divorce. Important: If considering divorce for insurance benefits, check the plan, as many treat it like divorce for benefit termination.

Source:

  1. Melissa Heinig, A. (2021, September 16). A guide to different types of separation: Trial, permanent, and legal separation. www.divorcenet.com. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.divorcenet.com/resources/family/types-separation.htm

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