Do you need a break from marital conflict, but you’re not ready to take the next step for divorce? If so, legal separation will give you the break you need, and protection while you take time away to figure out your next step.
During a legal separation, a couple will negotiate a temporary agreement and file it with the courts. This means that during the time you are living apart such issues as child custody, spousal support, visitation and the division of marital assets and debts are legally protected.
Be aware though that whatever you agree to during a legal separation may set a precedence that will carry over should you and your husband eventually decide to divorce. You should be as concerned with your long-term needs when negotiating a legal separation agreement as you would be if you were negotiating a divorce settlement agreement.
Below are a few advantages of a legal separation or why a woman may choose a legal separation over a divorce.
• A legal separation will protect you financially because any assets or debts acquired during a legal separation may be considered separate property. This is especially important in states where couples are required to live apart of a period before filing for divorce.
• There are social security benefits available to a wife who has been married 10 years or more. If you have been a stay-at-home mom, and haven’t paid into much social security, remaining married until you meet that 10 year requirement should be a consideration when deciding whether to continue in your marriage.
• In military divorce, the Uniform Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act (USFSPA) recognizes the right of state courts to distribute military retired pay to an ex-wife of a military member and provides a method of enforcing these orders through the Department of Defense. Waiting until you have been married at least 10 years increases you chance of gaining a portion of your military spouse’s retirement and other military benefits.
• If you have religious beliefs that make it impossible for you to divorce, a legal separation allows you to retain your marital status and gets you out of an unhappy, conflict-filled marriage.
• Most married couples reap benefits at tax time. This is an important reason for continuing a marriage but choosing to live apart.
• In some instances a wife will retain health insurance benefits during a legal separation. It pays to consider your health care needs when wrestling with the decision to divorce or separate.
• Most importantly, a legal separation gives you time away from the marriage — time you can take to decide if you truly want a divorce.
I know I touched on this earlier but, it bares repeating: if legal separation is the answer for you, treat your separation agreement the same way you would a divorce settlement agreement and don't let your emotions get in the way of your settlement. Hire an attorney to advise you about your legal rights and don’t agree to anything without considering what it means to your financial security down the road.
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