Why Choose Legal Separation Instead of Divorce?

Divorce is not the only option for married couples with irreconcilable differences. Another choice is legal separation, which allows for spouses to live apart under a court decree that governs their financial and parenting obligations. However, the spouses remain legally married in all other respects. There are varied reasons why some couples find this a preferable alternative.

In most cases, a legal separation may be granted, on the petition of one of the spouses, if the court finds that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that one or both of the spouses desire to live apart. Choosing legal separation instead of divorce is a highly personal decision. These are some possible reasons:

  • There is religious or moral opposition to divorce — Some people fundamentally do not believe in divorce or feel that it is wrong in their situation.
  • One or both spouses are not certain that they want to divorce — Some spouses may hold onto the possibility of reconciliation should circumstances change. If that occurs, the separation decree can be vacated.
  • Separation may be more in the children’s best interests — Since neither spouse can remarry, a legal separation keeps the family unit intact, which can promote stability in the children’s lives.
  • One spouse needs to continue to receive benefits as a married person — One spouse would lose eligibility for insurance, pension or certain government benefits if divorced.
  • Separation preserves inheritance rights — If either spouse dies, the other has the right to a share of their estate.

Divorce and separation decrees both may include provisions for child custody, child support and spousal maintenance. However, unless legally separated spouses come to an agreement concerning community property, they retain equal ownership of all assets obtained during the course of the marriage. They also remain jointly responsible for debts incurred by either spouse. Since the marriage continues in effect, these community property rules will apply to all future assets and debts as well.

An experienced Arizona divorce attorney can advise you further about the key differences between legal separation and divorce and can guide you toward the option that works best for your situation.

At Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C. in Scottsdale, Arizona, we compassionately help clients pursue legal remedies when their marriages are in crisis. To speak to one of our experienced lawyers about your case, give us a call at 602-789-3497 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.