Divorce proceedings often begin with a legal separation. This isn't usually a required step, but it can help provide multiple benefits both in divorce and possibly in avoiding divorce. Here's what you should know about a legal separation.
What Does a Legal Separation Do?
A legal separation prior to divorce proceedings is basically the equivalent of a mini divorce. Divorcing couples can use it in two ways:
First, you may not be entirely sure that you want to divorce. Things may be bad enough that you're seriously considering divorce, but you want to keep your options open. A legal separation can help make financial and child custody arrangements that protect the rights of all parties while you're considering a divorce. Some couples also use the period of legal separation as a way of taking a break or getting counseling to see if they can save their marriage.
Second, a legal separation can help provide a quick answer to many divorce issues. Divorce hearings can take months or possibly even years, depending on the complexity of the divorce. You may be worried about your spouse wasting money before the divorce is final, but you may not be legally allowed to hide money from them. The legal separation can help temporarily protect your finances while the divorce is still pending.
What Happens at the End of a Legal Separation?
At the end of the legal separation, you either get divorced or you don't. If you do decide to get divorced, it often goes faster because you likely already agreed on many things as part of the legal separation. This is especially true when you use the same divorce attorney to handle both the separation and the divorce.
If you decide to not get divorced, the separation ends, and you have the same rights as you did when you were originally married.
Do You Have to Get a Legal Separation Before You Get Divorced?
A legal separation is usually not required for a divorce. It can be helpful in many situations, so it's something to discuss with your divorce attorney.
There may be times when you do need a separation period, such as if one spouse doesn't respond to the divorce or has abandoned the other. If there wasn't a separation agreement, the judge will often handle this period the same as if there was a legal separation and then allow the divorce to go forward.
To learn more about whether a legal separation can help your divorce, contact a local divorce lawyer today.