What is a Legal Separation?

A legal separation occurs when two spouses who are married, but living apart, enter a legally-binding agreement which governs how the property their assets, and other affairs, will be managed while they are separated. However, they do not file for divorce.

Advantages of Legal Separation

Legal separation allows a married couple to live apart for a time, as if they were single, without actually going through with a divorce. This lets the couple confirm that they will be happier while separated, and make the decision to go through with the divorce easier. Furthermore, if they have already determined how their assets, businesses, and other affairs will be managed during their separation, it's usually pretty easy to carry this arrangement over into a divorce.

Some states do not allow legal separation, however. On the other hand, others require a certain period of legal separation before a couple is allowed to file for divorce.

Issues in Community Property States

If you live in a community property state, such as California, Arizona, Texas, and several others (mostly in the western half of the U.S.), you should know that the vast majority of property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is jointly owned by you and your spouse, even during separation, and ownership is not formally severed until divorce. So, even if you have a separation agreement that allows you to have possession of, say, the family car, your spouse still technically owns a one-half interest in the car (presuming it was bought during the marriage), and if you sell it or give it away, he or she might be able to sue you.

Once you're divorced, however, your property will be divided up, and you will be free to do whatever you like with the property of which you retain sole ownership.

Find The Right Marital Separation Attorney

If you are considering going through a legal separation from your spouse, there can be some complicated legal issues involved, as well as intense negotiations over how to dispose of marital property, before a final agreement can be reached. To help deal with these complexities, it's essential that you find a good marital separation attorney. Of course, finding the right attorney can be a chore in itself, but LegalMatch can connect you with the right attorney to handle all of your marital separation issues.