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Trial Separation, Legal Separation, Divorce: What’s the Difference?

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If you are having a hard time in your marriage, it can be challenging to know what to do next. While divorce is a possibility, is that the right decision for you? The good news is, there are other options to try first, including separation. There are different types of separation, so it’s important to know what these types entail before making a decision. Today, we are going to cover some of the more common choices.

Trial Separation

This is the voluntary decision for the two of you to give each other space. At its core, a trial separation is just two spouses agreeing to live apart and separate from one another. This allows both persons to gain some space and assess the marriage without having to worry about the other spouse constantly being around. This is the right fit for many couples, as there are no legal rules for trial separations. There is no specific end date, and it’s entirely up to you to set the terms of the agreement. However, we do recommend that you discuss the following:

  • Informal child or spousal support if one of you will struggle to make ends meet
  • Who the children will stay with, as well as terms of visitation
  • Who will pay bills relating to the marriage during this time, including children’s medical costs or the mortgage

Since the court isn’t involved with trial separations, there are no legal ramifications if one person violates the agreement. Keep this in mind if you make this decision. However, a trial separation allows for second chances; a divorce does not.

Legal Separation

Legal separation can be a bit trickier, as some states have entire court procedures for obtaining a legal separation. Other states do not. However, even states that don’t have a certain procedure for legal separation may have other methods to obtain one.

Those states that do offer a formal legal separation proceeding usually have you submit a formal petition to the court. Next, the court determines everything it would do in a divorce case, including child support, alimony, child custody, and visitation, as well as the division of marital property. After this is complete, everything has been resolved, but the two of you are still technically married.

More often than not, those couples who wish to separate will choose a formal written agreement that can be called several different things: a Marital Settlement Agreement, a Separation Agreement, or a Property Settlement Agreement. This is a contract, and both parties will be legally bound by the terms.

So, why get a legal separation? These are popular because you usually don’t need to involve the courts in order to enter into the agreement. This can save you and your spouse unnecessary time and money. Also, the agreement will tackle the same issues you need when getting an absolute divorce. And finally, unlike a trial separation, if one spouse goes against what is written in the contract, you can always apply to the courts for them to enforce the terms.

Absolute Divorce

An absolute divorce addresses everything a legal separation does, but once the process is over, so is the marriage. A separation will allow you and your spouse to possibly work things out in the end, but divorce does not. If you decide to get back together after a divorce, you will have to remarry one another. Any couple that believes they may reconcile should carefully think about whether divorce truly is the best option.

Other Considerations for Separation

If legal separation is just about the same as a divorce, why would anyone choose to legally separate? There are quite a few reasons, but most of them come down to economics. Some companies allow for health insurance to cover a spouse you may be legally separated from, but none allow this if you are divorced. Of course, you will need to check with your health insurance provider to see if this is the case. Also, choosing to divorce can affect your future Social Security benefits. Couples that are married for 10 years or longer are usually entitled to take advantage of each other’s Social Security benefits when the time comes, even if they divorce long before then. However, this is not the case for those couples who divorce before that ten-year mark.

Smith Law

If you have further questions about the differences between trial separations, legal separations, and divorces, you are not alone! Feel free to contact our professionals to learn more. We would be happy to hear about your situation and provide legal counsel. Our focuses are legal service that exceeds your expectations, quality customer service, and communication that is always prompt and thorough. We will do everything in our power to ensure that you are satisfied with our service. Let us help you work towards the best possible outcome for you. Contact us today to get started.

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