A legal separation can be a stepping stone to divorce or can be used in place of divorce, depending on the situation at hand. In both cases, it is important to obtain one so that each party’s legal responsibilities are outlined and decisions can be made on key aspects of the separation. Even though the separation may start out amicably, things can change later. Having a formal document in place can protect you from actions done out of anger or distrust. Here are some key points that can help you decide whether to stop with the legal separation or proceed with a divorce that go beyond the emotional considerations.
- What a legal separation is- A legal separation is an agreement where you have resolved such matters as division of assets, child support, visitation, spousal support, and division of debt. The protection aspect is that any new debt incurred by either party is not shared between them.
- Do you need continuance of health insurance coverage? Being on a group policy and having medical conditions that might preclude getting a separate health insurance policy is often a reason to go with a legal separation instead of a divorce, at least until which time suitable coverage could be obtained.
- Meeting the time limit for social security and/or military benefits- If you and your spouse have been together for more than 10 years, you are entitled to receive benefits. However, if you still have some time to go to reach that number, a legal separation keeps the clock ticking and you can file for the divorce after your 10-year anniversary.
- Ability to continue filing joint tax returns- If your tax burden would be lower filing jointly, it may be beneficial to obtain a legal separation instead of a divorce. Of course, this assumes both parties are comfortable with this arrangement.
- State requirements- Many states have a required period of time that you must be legally separated before you can file for divorce. For example, in North Carolina, you must be separated for one year for a ‘no fault’ divorce.
If you would like to know more about obtaining a legal separation, reach out to the office of Robert G. Spaugh, Attorney at Law in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. We have more than 30 years of experience in family law, so you can be confident that you’ll receive sound legal advice and compassion through what can be a challenging and emotional time.