When a married couple is considering ending their marriage, there are two legal options they can pursue. The first option is a legal separation that enables the spouses to live separately while remaining married, and the other option is to pursue a divorce. At the end of the divorce, the marriage is legally over.
Discuss Your Case With a Skilled New Bern Attorney
Deciding whether to pursue a legal separation or a divorce can be difficult. Some benefits and disadvantages come with each type of arrangement. Discussing your case with a skilled family law attorney can help you understand all of your legal options. At Greene Wilson Crow & Smith, one of our experienced attorneys can discuss the differences between the two. Contact Greene Wilson Crow & Smith today to schedule your initial consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.
The Difference Between Divorce and Legal Separation
The main difference between a divorce and legal separation is that in a legal separation the couple remains married, even though they live separately. A legal separation gives a couple the chance to try what it would be like to be divorced before finalizing the divorce. In other ways, this process is somewhat similar to a divorce.
When a couple decides to legally separate, they negotiate the terms of their separation agreement. A separation agreement is a legally binding contract that both parties sign. Separation agreements typically address the division of marital assets and debts, child custody, child support, child visitation schedules, and alimony, also known as spousal support.
All of these issues will become important should a couple decide to get divorced. When a separation agreement works well, the couple may decide to use the terms of the second operation agreement for their divorce settlement. They can also choose to change some of the terms that are not working before filing for a divorce.
The Benefits of Discussing Your Case With an Attorney
For many couples, the legal separation is a trial period before they decide to get divorced. If you get divorced after legal separation, a judge will probably assume that it should carry over to the divorce settlement agreement since you were satisfied with the legal separation agreement. You can choose to make changes to your separation agreement while finalizing your divorce settlement.
Since you will be living according to the terms outlined in your separation agreement, it’s wise to spend time creating a separation agreement that is workable and effective. Sometimes people assume separation agreements are informal, and they can break the agreement if both spouses agree. On the contrary, both spouses must abide by the terms of the signed separation agreement. Working with a skilled attorney can help you protect yourself and ensure that the terms of the agreement are fair and reasonable. Should any issues arise regarding the separation agreement, one of the experienced attorneys at Greene Wilson Crow & Smith can assist you by negotiating a beneficial solution.
Advantages to Legal Separation Instead of Divorce
Divorce and legal separation have many things in common, but there are some advantages to separating instead of divorcing. The prior allows a couple to spend time away from the constant conflict of living in the same home. Doing so gives them time to decide whether a divorce is truly what they would like to do. An agreement as such can act as a cooling-off period during which the couple takes advantage of marriage counseling and tries to find new ways to handle conflict.
Legal separation will also allow you to protect your medical benefits. If you get a divorce, you will no longer have access to your spouse’s health care plan through his or her employer. In a legal separation, you can continue using your spouse’s employer-based health care plan. A separation can allow a long-term stay-at-home parent to become more financially secure while still enjoying the health care benefits he or she needs.
When a couple has been married for more than ten years, a legal separation allows them to take advantage of certain types of Social Security benefits from their spouse. Likewise, if one spouse is in the military, the couple may want to stay married for at least ten years so that the other spouse can take advantage of benefits in the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. In other cases, the couple decides to opt for non-divorce due to religious beliefs.
The Benefits of Divorce Instead of Legal Separation
On the other hand, there are also reasons that a divorce may be more beneficial than a legal separation. When a marriage is highly contentious, and it’s unlikely that the couple will reconcile, it can be beneficial to skip the legal separation process and file for divorce. This can occur when one or both spouses have difficulty talking to each other, making simple communication nearly impossible.
When neither spouse is interested in going to counseling or taking steps to reconcile, a legal separation could prolong the inevitable. In other cases, one or both spouses may want to re-marry someone else. In this status, the couple is still married and cannot be re-married until the divorce is finalized. Finally, divorce could be the best option when one or both spouses need a final decision on the division of their property so they can move forward.
Contact a New Bern Divorce and Legal Separation Attorney
At Greene Wilson Crow & Smith, we understand that preparing for a divorce or separation is never easy. Deciding which option works better for you and your goals can be challenging. We are here to help you weigh your legal options and avoid any missteps that could harm you in the future. One of our knowledgeable divorce and legal separation lawyers can advise you on what steps you should take based on your unique circumstances. Contact Greene Wilson Crow & Smith to schedule your initial consultation.