Divorce vs. Separation
Approximately 87 percent of married couples that separate eventually divorce. When a married couple separates, they decide to live apart without necessarily dissolving the marriage at that point. Couples may have an informal or trial separation to live separately while deciding if divorce may be an appropriate option, while others part ways with the full intent to make their departure legal by divorcing.
How Do Married Couples Separate Legally?
Legal separation is an official order issued by a court that describes the duties of both parties while they are separated but still legally married. To begin the process of legal separation, one party must file legal separation papers at a local courthouse. Couples who wish to file for divorce are generally not required to file a legal separation first. Once a couple has decided they will never reconcile, their separation is termed a permanent separation. Parties who wish to separate should each contact a trustworthy Pennsylvania divorce attorney to discuss the legal separation process more thoroughly and to properly file the required paperwork in court.
Similarities Between Legal Separation and Divorce
In most cases, a separation will have little legal impact. However, legal separation can bear some similarity to divorce. Similar to in a divorce case, when making determinations in a legal separation case, the court decides matters concerning property division, child custody and visitation, and maintenance. In legal separation cases, the court determines the amount spouses will receive in maintenance payments that are similar to alimony. The court also decides how much parents will pay in child support during the separation. Prior to separating, each party should obtain his or her own legal counsel. Legal separation proceedings generally involve the same critical matters couples are required to address during a divorce. Therefore, both parties should enlist the help of an attorney to ensure their needs and desires are represented throughout the legal separation proceedings.
Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce
One major distinction between legal separation and divorce is that divorce legally dissolves a marriage. Dissolving the marriage may be an advantage to couples who simply wish to legally go their own separate ways entirely. However, some parties may find legal separation advantageous because the process allows one or both parties to retain certain legal rights and economic benefits. Legal separation allows one party to continue to be covered by his or her spouse’s health insurance and social security benefits. Neither party may legally remarry during a legal separation as they remain married as a matter of law. Spouses who are legally separated remain each other’s next of kin. Therefore, they may continue to make medical and financial decisions for each other. Spouses may be responsible for each other’s debts and liabilities during a legal separation, whereas these matters would otherwise be settled during divorce proceedings. Marital property rights also remain intact if a couple is legally separated. Therefore, each party retains rights to one another’s property in the event of the death of one of the spouses.
Permanent Separation Representation in Jenkintown
If a couple separates and decides not to reconcile, their separation becomes permanent. In most states, property and debts acquired after a permanent separation are typically viewed as unshared by the separated couple. An exception may exist for debts and properties either party acquires for the purpose of being used by the two parties’ shared family necessities. Examples of family debts may include house payments, household maintenance expenses, and childcare expenses. Unlike a permanent separation, property and debts acquired during a trial separation are generally viewed as jointly owned. A trial separation is distinguished from a permanent separation by the absence of a formal decision for the couple to remain apart. The lines between a permanent separation and trial separation period may become blurred in some cases. Therefore, couples are urged to consult a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer when considering a legal separation in PA.
Contact a Pennsylvania Divorce Lawyer
If you are considering filing for a legal separation in PA, our staff is available to serve you during your critical time of transition. Our attorney understands the delicate nature of divorce and separation. Therefore, we handle each case to the best of our ability with our clients’ needs in mind. Call the Law Office of Joanne Kleiner in Jenkintown at (215) 886-1266 to receive a case evaluation free of charge.