For married couples in Arizona that have decided they can no longer live together, divorce might seem like the obvious choice. With a clean break, both parties can move on with their lives and start anew.
But there’s another option. Instead of the finality of divorce, a legal separation allows couples to remain married while living separate lives. That might sound like a contradiction in terms, but for financial, practical, or religious reasons, a legal separation may make a lot of sense.
So if you’ve decided to split up, is a legal separation right for you and your spouse? As ever, the answer is: it depends on your circumstances. Read on if you’d like to learn more about the pros and cons of legal separation to see if it’s appropriate for your situation. A divorce might still suit you better, but we’ll tell you what you need to know to help make up your mind.
There are some clear differences between a legal separation and a divorce. For starters, with a legal separation, you and your spouse remain married. Also, divorce is final, whereas it’s relatively simple to reverse a legal separation.
A legal separation is usually a quicker and less expensive process, plus it can help avoid the drama, resentment, and confrontation that are sometimes associated with a divorce. Furthermore, unlike a divorce, a legal separation only works if both parties agree to it.
There are other practical considerations around these two options. After a divorce, you’re free to remarry. That’s not possible with a legal separation because you’re still married. However, that fact also means that you can continue to enjoy the benefits of being wed. That may include a more favorable tax situation, continued coverage for you and your family under your spouse’s medical insurance, and no need to invoke any prenuptial agreement.
Legal separation is a valuable solution in cases where your religion forbids divorce, when you want time to consider before proceeding to divorce, or you need a speedy, short-term resolution. It’s also a sensible solution if there’s any chance of reconciliation - and if things don’t work out, you can still divorce further down the line.
Having outlined some of the fundamental differences between legal separation and divorce, it’s also worth remembering that they have much in common. For couples with no children, you’ll need to agree on practical matters like how shared assets are split, who gets to stay in the family home, how much - if any - maintenance is payable, and debt management. Naturally, where children are involved, there’s a range of additional considerations, including where they live, visitation agreements, and child support payments.
There’s one final point worth stressing. Don’t underestimate just how much hard work, mental effort, emotional strain, and form filling are involved in any form of separation.
To apply for a legal separation in Arizona, you have to meet specific requirements. The first condition is that you must have been resident in the state for more than 90 days. After that, you need to show the courts evidence of the following:
You’ll need to show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down and that as things stand, you have no intention of getting back together again. A family law attorney can advise you on the correct wording to use.
The agreement of both spouses is required for a legal separation. If one partner objects, then a legal separation isn’t possible. In such cases, the court will allow the other partner to proceed with a no-fault divorce.
At least one of you has to express the wish to live separately and apart. Although this usually means living in separate locations, that may not be possible if the money’s tight. In such cases, it’s allowable to live separately in the same home, for example, by having individual bedrooms or dividing the house into two.
A judge still has to sign off on your legal separation, but assuming you and your spouse have reached a mutually acceptable agreement, there’s no need for you to go to court. A divorce attorney can submit the signed papers to court for you.
To secure your legal separation, you and your spouse will need to demonstrate to the judge how you’re handling essential areas like child support and alimony payments, property division, and child custody/visitation rights.
Some couples use legal separation as a dry run for divorce. If you subsequently decide to get back together, reversing a legal separation is a straightforward process. But if you choose to go your separate ways, the path to divorce is much easier because you’ve already done much of the relevant groundwork for your legal separation.
Divorce and legal separation are both influential and life-changing events, so it’s a sensible idea to seek legal support from a professional. Divorce lawyers have plenty of experience on how the different separation options work, and you can benefit directly from their knowledge and know-how. Many people conclude that the best possible separation settlement route is simple: use the best divorce attorney.
Legal separation isn't for everyone, but every separating couple should at least give it some consideration. A divorce lawyer can explain the benefits and advise you on whether a divorce is the better choice.
A legal separation is a better solution for both spouses and any children involved in many scenarios. However, for some people, a divorce is the right way to go. Marble’s friendly and knowledgeable team can give you expert advice and guidance on both options, so call us now for a free divorce and separation consultation.