Does A Legal Separation Protect You Financially?

Does A Legal Separation Protect You Financially

Although they share some similarities, legal separation and divorce are not the same thing. Each instance involves the couple living apart from one another with a specific legal agreement in place. However, legal separation does not completely dissolve the marriage like a divorce does. Just like a divorce, legal separation requires court appointed agreements to be put in place. The couple and their lawyers will reach agreeable negotiations that will be filed with the court. Unlike a divorce, a legal separation still leaves the marriage intact, but with stipulations. A legal separation agreement takes on all of the issues that are covered during a divorce proceeding.

In Utah, your spouse needs to agree to a legal separation. If they do not, you may have to file for divorce. With that being said, legal separation is not something that should be considered without deep thought as it is a life-changing occurrence.

Pros Of Legal Separation

Choosing to embark on the path of legal separation is a personal decision that only you and your spouse can make. It isn’t a choice that should be made lightly. For most, legal separation is the first step to a final divorce. There may be reasons such as tax benefits and religious convictions that inspire a couple to become legally separated before deciding to completely dissolve their marital union. Sometimes, a couple will determine that although they cannot remain under the same roof, they have good reason not to divorce, either.

Some Reasons to Choose Legal Separation

• There are federal tax breaks for married couples and you, and your spouse would like to continue benefiting from them.
• You and/or your spouse will continue to receive health insurance from the subscriber’s plan.
• The possibility of reconciliation is alive. With a legal separation, you and your spouse can still opt to keep your marriage intact after some time apart. Many couples seek marriage counseling during legal separation.
• One or both of you do not believe in divorce due to religious convictions.
• The pair of you might be financially unstable and wish to stay legally married to help with living costs. This also holds true if your spouse will be deemed as financially unstable due to a divorce and you would like to stay married until they can stand on their own.
• When you or your spouse is eligible for the other’s social security benefits. After 10 years of marriage, this sum of money increases.
• You and your spouse are not ready to negotiate a full-blown divorce agreement. Legal separation protects your rights and financial interests while the two of you decide whether or not divorce is the right decision.
• If you and your spouse plan to stay separated on a long-term basis, it is imperative that you have a separation agreement in place so that you both have your interests legally protected.
• All of the issues covered in a divorce are also covered in a legal separation. This includes child support, custody and parenting time, asset and property division, payment of marital debts, and spousal support.

Some Cons Of Legal Separation

As with any legal procedure involving family law, there are some cons to choosing a legal separation. Even though legal separation isn’t a divorce, the journey is still complicated and emotionally taxing. This is all the more reason to choose an experienced attorney to represent you and process your paperwork.

Some Reasons Not to Choose Legal Separation

• You have plans to remarry or aspire to remarry, at some point. Legal separation is not a divorce; therefore, you will still remain married.
• You desire to sever financial ties with your spouse. Legal separation still requires you to act as one party in terms of financial responsibility, aside from child and/or spousal support obligations.
• You are absolutely sure you want to dissolve your marriage. Choosing legal separation only prolongs your stress and discontentment.
• When there is zero financial benefit. There is no reason to waste time and money on a legal separation when there won’t be any financial gain.

A Separation Agreement

If there is an official separation agreement for the spouses, it likely states which spouse is responsible for which debt. When a couple receives a legal separation, the process and orders that result are akin to divorce decrees. Orders can be made while the spouses are separating that set out provisions for property division, spousal support, custody matters and child support. When the spouses are legally separated, any new debts are usually considered the separate debt of the spouse that incurred them. However, not all states recognize legal separation. In that case, debts may continue to allot until the divorce filing or the divorce decree, depending on state law.

Individuals in jurisdictions that do not allow legal separation should ensure that they protect their financial security by getting orders from the court to prohibit the acquisition of new debt while the divorce is pending. Community property states hold that all income, assets and debts incurred during the marriage are jointly and equally owned by both spouses. Excluded from community property is property that was obtained before the marriage or property obtained through a personal gift or inheritance. If the bill is for an asset that was purchased before the marriage, the original owner is likely to be the only one liable for the debt unless the other spouse expressly agreed to pay the debt. Likewise, if the bill was incurred after the couple was separated; it is likely to be viewed by the court as separate debt. If the bill that was incurred is for an expense that arose during the marriage, such as a utility bill or a medical bill, the bill is likely subject to a 50/50 split between the spouses. This holds true even if the bills are primarily only in one of the spouse’s names. When a family court in an equitable distribution state determines who is responsible for certain debt, it looks at the financial history of each spouse. In equitable distribution states, there may not be a completely equal distribution of property and debts. Even if a separation agreement or divorce decree states that a spouse is responsible for certain debts and the other spouse is not, this statement has no effect on the creditors because family courts do not have jurisdiction over third parties.

Therefore, a creditor may still pursue collection efforts and take action against a spouse that can adversely affect his or her credit. Even if a spouse would not be legally liable for a debt, he or she may become liable by an agreement. If the spouse told the creditor or the other spouse that he or she would pay a debt, that spouse may create a contract that both the spouse and the creditor can rely on. Handling finances when married is hard enough. Adding separation into the mix can make financial management even more difficult. Before you and your spouse begin splitting finances during separation, keep the following advice in mind. Whether you are planning on getting back together or are preparing for a divorce, creating a financial separation from your ex-married life can be stressful. Children, the Home-front, mutual debts, lawyers’ fees, and creating a new budget are all part of financial management in marriage. As with any separation, the more civil you and your spouse can be, the smoother your dividing of assets will go. There is no easy way to separate from your spouse, but there is a way to make the process much more manageable. Don’t put you or your spouse into debt over your separation. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when splitting finances during separation.

• Get It in Writing: You may have trusted your partner in your married life, but financial management in marriage and during separation are two horses of a different color. If you want to ensure that you can become financially independent from your spouse, you must:
1. Create a new budget
2. Make a fair division of accrued items, such as furniture, appliances, and electronics
3. Close your shared accounts as soon as possible
4. File for legal separation
5. Divide your assets
6. Get everything in writing
Many couples may choose to try and discuss any subjects of alimony, childcare, and selling off shared assets without a lawyer. Remember that any debt your spouse incurs post-separation will have an effect on your credit report.
• Living in the Family Home: Until you are legally separated, it is important to establish a new budget. You may come to a civil agreement with your ex on who should pay what after your separation. All property acquired during your marriage is usually considered marital property by law. This means that you are both responsible for paying for your home, even if you are separated. Perhaps you will decide that the partner who remains in the marital home should be responsible for paying the monthly bills, or the spouse who keeps the car should take care of the car payments and insurance.

• Selling the Marital Home: When a couple separates, it is common for one or both of partners to want one person to remain in the family home for the benefit of the children. Believing that this will give their children more stability, couples may take on more debt than they can handle on a single income. If you cannot come to terms on sharing the financial responsibility for the mortgage, taxes, and other bills, it may be in your best interest to sell the home and split the profits.
• Handle Credit Card Debts: So long as you are married, all financial institutions will regard your debts as “shared.” This makes it important to civilly discuss splitting finances in marriage separation. You must decide how much of your debts joint and which are individually incurred are. For example, a mortgage would be a shared debt that you would both pay into, but student loans and personal credit card debt may be taken on individually. Splitting finances would be wise, and consolidate your credit cards so that you can close any shared accounts as quickly as possible.
• Get a Lawyer to Draw Up an Agreement: During your married life you made decisions together, so you may desire to make your financial management in marriage separation as civil as possible. Not wanting to involve lawyers is an admirable goal, but it is not always the wisest one. For example, in the event that one spouse becomes disgruntled by the separation and begins to overspend on any finances that are still in a shared account or stops paying the mortgage or monthly bills, your financial institution will look to you to cover the payments. So long as you are still legally married, this unfortunate debt incurred by your ex will fall to you. It may be wise in this case to bring a lawyer into the mix to create clear, legal lines of financial responsibility for you and your ex.

• Your Children: Splitting finances during a separation gets more complicated when there are children involved. Things will go a lot more smoothly if you and your partner can come to a civil agreement about sharing custody of the children and both providing financially for them. Loving parents will calmly discuss the roles and responsibilities of each spouse regarding the children post-separation. Always consider the best interest of your children first. The cost of daily living should be taken into account when you are deciding on a budget for the children. Rent, groceries, clothing, school supplies, and field-trip outings should all be financial aspects that both parents are responsible for.
When you are separating from your married life, it can be difficult to decide on a new post-marriage budget. After all, financial management in marriage is difficult on a good day. Throw divorce or separation into the mix and you’ll be in for a head-spinning conversation. Strive to focus on the essentials: your house, your debts, your children, and getting independent and you’ll be off to a good start. To help ensure a separation agreement is not challenged, you and your ex-partner must be fully open about your finances. This is called ‘financial disclosure’. That way each of you’ll know what the other person has in:
• Debts
• Savings
• Property
• Investments

Legal Separation Lawyer Free Consultation

When you need help getting a legal separation in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you with divorce, family law, legal separations, child custody, debt division, asset division, retirement division and much more.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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Legal Separation Information

Legal Separation FAQs

Many married couples separate when contemplating a permanent split or working toward eventual reconciliation. Legal separation, however, specifically refers to a court approved separation which defines legal rights and obligations, but doesn’t permanently end the marriage. Legal separation differs from more informal separation because a court must approve and order legal separation. It also differs from divorce because the marriage continues to exist after a legal separation.

Benefits of Legal Separation

Legal separation appeals to couples who don’t want to divorce, but who will live separately and want matters such as child support, child custody and property division clarified legally. The formalized separation typically applies to couples who foresee permanent separation, rather than a temporary trial separation. Common reasons a couple might wish to separate, rather than divorce, include the financial benefits of remaining married (such as tax incentives) and religious beliefs which may conflict with divorce. Additionally, couples can reap the benefits of legal clarity similar to divorce orders. Property rights between the two parties are divvied up, as are child custody, child support and spousal support rights and obligations. While couples can simply agree to such matters without court involvement, obtaining a court approved separation makes it easier to enforce these rights in case disputes arise. Grounds for legal separation typically mirror state grounds for divorce and can include the following: incompatibility, abandonment, adultery and cruelty. Just as in a divorce, the child custody, child support, and spousal support conditions can only be modified with court approval. A court approved separation doesn’t end a marriage. Though rights and obligations of each side are clarified under the separation order, the marriage still legally exists. For this reason, people who separate legally may not marry a new spouse without breaking bigamy laws. An advantage is that couples can easily return to life together should they decide to reconcile. Unlike a divorced couple, a couple who has formalized their separation and wants to get back together doesn’t need to get married again. Rather, they simply need to submit a request to resume the marriage to the court. On the other hand, should a couple decide to permanently end the marriage; a legal separation order greatly simplifies the divorce process. Many couples separate without the intention to permanently split. They may use a trial separation to work toward reconciliation, or decide to live in separate places. In these cases, legal rights and obligations regarding children, property and debts remain the same as they would in marriage. Issues such as division of marital property or what one spouse would owe in child support might be subject to agreement, but haven’t been resolved as they may be in a divorce or legal separation order. The grounds for legal separation vary between states, but some of the reasons for separation from your spouse are the same in all states.

Legal Separation Information

Knowing the grounds for legal separation will help you prepare your case so you can quickly get the paperwork completed and start the process towards divorce. While not all of the following reasons for legal separation are valid in all states, it will help you start thinking about your defense.
• Adultery: Your spouse had an extra-marital affair.
• Imprisonment: Your spouse is sent to prison for a certain amount of years (time of imprisonment for justification of legal separation depends on the state).
• Consanguinity: After marriage, you find out that you and your spouse are closely related.
• Bigamy: You find out that your spouse is still married, whether it is because he or she did not dissolve a marriage or lied and said the person died.
• Unsound Mind: The person was not of a sound mind when you got married (example of this is being intoxicated) or has a mental illness that affects his or her ability to stay in the marriage.
• Neglect: The spouse does not support the family in any way.
• Desertion: Your spouse has left you and has no intent on returning.
• Domestic violence: Harm or threat to harm a spouse. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse are grounds for legal separation.
• Fraud: You find out the person only married you for a specific reason such as getting into the Utah or take money from you.
• Impotence: You find out that your spouse cannot have children and you want children.
• Physical incapacity: Your spouse is unable or does not want to have sexual relations with you.
• Sexual transmitted disease: Your husband or wife has transmitted a sexual disease to you intentionally or unknowingly.
• Unreasonable behavior: Some states will allow legal separation for unreasonable behavior, which is determined on a case-by-case basis. Unreasonable behavior refers to behavior that either spouse cannot live with any longer.

Preparing Your Separation Case

When you appear before the judge, you will have to present proof of your reasons for a legal separation. You want to make sure you have what you need so you can convince the judge that you need a legal separation from your spouse. Collect paperwork for anything that has to do with what you will present. If you are victim of domestic violence and have a restraining order, this would be extremely helpful. If your spouse had an affair, any proof such as credit card bills, private investigator data, or photographs would help your case. If there is a mental or physical cause for your desire for legal separation, include medical reports, if possible. Using a lawyer to defend you can be helpful if your situation is a difficult one. Some people have it easy and both spouses agree to the separation. In other cases, only one spouse wants the legal separation so the other one has to work harder. A lawyer can help you gather proof and present it to the judge, which may improve your chances of the judge ruling in your favor. Separating from your spouse is difficult and is probably something you never wanted to happen. However, when your happiness and well-being are at stake it may be the only choice you have. Stay strong and understand that your reasons for the split are legitimate. You know things are not going well for you and your spouse. Your partner did seem stern, aloof and resentful that last time you spoke to each other. Like always you expect them to come around, let go of the steam and become their normal self with time. Instead, one day, you come home to find their clothes missing from their cupboards and a piece of paper on the dinner table- a divorce notice. It’s not uncommon that couples start to fight and make up fight and make up, until one day they fall apart for good. Don’t neglect your relationship issues, you never know, your relationship could be treading towards rocky roads too!

Reasons For Legal Separation

Infidelity, lack of communication, financial troubles, sparing sessions of sex and intimacy are some of the common reasons for divorce.
• Infidelity: Extra-marital affairs are responsible for the breakdown of most marriages that end in divorce. This is one of the most common causes of divorce. The reasons why people cheat aren’t as cut and dry as our anger may lead us to believe. Anger and resentment are common underlying reasons for cheating, along with differences in sexual appetite and lack of emotional intimacy. Infidelity often begins as a seemingly innocent friendship, “It starts as an emotional affair which later becomes a physical affair”. Infidelity is the number one reason for divorce.
• Money: Money makes people funny, or so the saying goes, and it’s true. Everything from different spending habits and financial goals to one spouse making considerably more money than the other, causing a power struggle can strain a marriage to the breaking point. Money really touches everything. It impacts people’s lives. Clearly, money and stress do seem to go hand in hand for many couples. Financial troubles can be categorized as one of the biggest causes of divorce, following infidelity, the number one reason for divorce.

• Lack of communication: Communication is crucial in marriage and not being able to communicate effectively quickly leads to resentment and frustration for both, impacting all aspects of a marriage. On the other hand, good communication is the foundation of a strong marriage. Yelling at your spouse, not talking enough throughout the day, making nasty comments to express yourself are all unhealthy methods of communication that need to be ditched in a marriage. Poor communication is one of the biggest reasons for divorce. Practicing mindful communication, to change age-old marriage mistakes, can be hard but its well worth the effort to improve and save your relationship.
• Constant arguing: From bickering about chores to arguing about the kids; incessant arguing kills many relationships. Couples who seem to keep having the same argument over again often do so because they feel they’re not being heard or appreciated. Many find it hard to see the other person’s point of view, which leads to a lot of arguments without ever coming to a resolution, which can ultimately be a cause of divorce.
• Weight gain: It may seem awfully superficial or unfair, but weight gain is one of the most common reasons for divorce. It may seem odd but weight gain is also one of the leading causes of divorce. In some cases a significant amount of weight gain causes the other spouse to become less physically attracted while for others, weight gain takes a toll on their self-esteem, which trickles into issues with intimacy and can even become a cause of divorce.
• Unrealistic expectations: It’s easy to go into a marriage with lofty expectations; expecting your spouse and the marriage to live up to your image of what they should be. These expectations can put a lot of strain on the other person, leaving you feeling let down and setting your spouse up for failure. Wrong expectation setting can become one of the reasons for divorce.
• Lack of intimacy: Not feeling connected to your partner can quickly ruin a marriage because it leaves couples feeling as though they’re living with a stranger or more like roommates than spouses. This can be from a lack of physical or emotional intimacy and isn’t always about sex. If you are constantly giving your spouse the cold shoulder, then know that over time it can become the ground for divorce. Ignoring your partner’s sexual needs is being called the number one cause of divorce in recent times. Making your relationship intimate and special is the responsibility of both partners. Practice little acts of kindness, appreciation and enjoy physical intimacy as much as possible to sweeten your relationship.
• Lack of equality: Lack of equality comes closely behind the number one cause of divorce, lack of intimacy, in recent times. When one partner feels that they take on more responsibility in the marriage, it can alter their view of the other person and lead to resentment. Resentment often snowballs to become one of the reasons for divorce, in fact; it is a leading cause of divorce. Every couple must negotiate through their own and unique set of challenges, and find their own way of living together as two equals who enjoy a respectful, harmonious and joyful relationship.
• Not being prepared for marriage: A surprising number of couples of all ages have blamed not being prepared for married life for the demise of their relationship. Divorce rates are highest among couples in their 20s. Lack of preparation is one of the most common reasons for divorce. Almost half the divorces occur in the first 10 years of marriage, especially between the fourth and eighth anniversary.
• Abuse: Physical or emotional abuse is a sad reality for some couples. It doesn’t always stem from the abuser being a “bad” person; deep emotional issues are usually to blame. Regardless of the reason, no one should tolerate abuse and be removing yourself from the relationship safely is important.

Free Consultation with a Legal Separation Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law, or legal separation in Utah, or if you need to start or defend against a divorce or legal separation, please call Ascent Law LLC (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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