Why Would I Want a Legal Separation?

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Legal Separation on Friday October 11, 2013

In the previous post we discussed the difference between a legal separation and a divorce.  In this post we focus on the reasons one would want a legal separation.

A marriage rarely flows smoothly; bumps in the road appear and the couple must navigate those difficulties.  Occasionally, the bump may seem more like a mountain (or a chasm) – for example, one party has an extramarital affair or develops a drug habit.  At these times, when the challenges are particularly severe, a couple needs to decide whether to remain together or end the marriage.  In the heat of the moment, with emotions hot and one person or both persons feeling wounded and hurt, remaining together seems impossible and someone initiates a divorce.

But other couples facing similar challenges and emotions may not wish to rush to end the marriage.  They may recognize that in the heat of the moment their anger or pain may get the best of their judgment, and that rather than rush to end the marriage the parties simply need a “time out” to sort out whether they wish to remain married, whether they can in fact find their way back to a solid marriage built on mutual trust.

The process of reconciliation can take some time – months of couples therapy, individual therapy, time alone to contemplate the past and the future.  In the meantime, the family runs the risk of coming apart at the seams.  The pain may be too strong to live together in the same house.

This is where a legal separation can prove invaluable.  The couple can choose to separate into different households, but do so in a manner where they understand they both will try and work out their differences and attempt to save the marriage.  They will have space, but they will also have protection – the legal separation assures that no party goes without insurance, lacks sufficient income and property to cover their reasonable needs, and has frequent and meaningful contact with the children.  A financial status quo serves as a complement to the emotional “time out” to allow the parties time to rebuild trust and see if they can survive the crisis that brought them to this point.

Opting for a legal separation over divorce also has the advantage of working through problems more amicably, as both parties are thinking about repair and fairness and forgiveness rather than getting the better of the other in a final end to the marriage.  It can offer hope for reconciliation, but also soften the path toward the ultimate end of the marriage, and do so in a manner that leaves the parties and the children feeling much better about moving on.  Trial separations often happen in marriages, just without the filing of paperwork.  But the actual paperwork protects the financially disadvantaged spouse or the parent worried about time with the children.

Parties to a crumbling marriage may also have other motivations to stay together, from religious beliefs against divorce to financial concerns about health coverage.  Legal separation could allow these parties to avoid the label of divorce but still live separate lives.

We recommend that prior to deciding whether to choose legal separation or divorce, an individual in that position should consult with an experienced attorney who can explain the advantages and disadvantages and counsel in a manner that meets the person’s expectations.

If you have questions about legal separation and divorce, contact St. Louis family law attorneys – we can help.

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