Separation may be the best option for some couples. It can be a major step towards divorce, it can be an end unto itself, or it can even act as a break while the couple tries to regroup. These can be informal, or they can be more formalized by filing for legal separation or drafting a legal separation agreement. Preparation of a Judgment of Legal Separation is necessary to formalize the agreement.
Certain issues may be worked out through an informal separation, but it is advisable to formalize the arrangement if the separation appears to be long term. It should include all the considerations that a divorce would, including the sometimes difficult process of negotiating issues such as parenting plans, control of marital assets or other financial arrangements. Nevertheless, there are certain benefits to separation.
The benefits of separation
Couples choose separation over divorce for different reasons. These include:
Taxes: The tax laws changed in many ways in 2018, and separation may reduce tax obligations on marital maintenance or alimony. The payors of spousal support must now pay taxes on the amount paid.
Insurance and other benefits: Unlike divorce, the estranged spouse can still be covered by a health insurance policy and other benefits, though it should be stipulated if there is a formal agreement. Staying married can also help couples meet certain financial milestones that are part of IRAs, retirement accounts or social security.
Religious or cultural reasons: Some people are not comfortable with violating religious or cultural covenants.
Family: It is a fact that divorce will have tremendous impact on children. Rather than putting a family through contentious litigation in the courts, separation may be a better option.
A viable option for reconciliation: Simply put, some couples get into a rut and need to hit the reset button for the marriage to be viable. It also gives them a taste of what life is like without their spouse, which they may not find as satisfying as they first envisioned.
Attorneys can help couples with the arrangements
Whether it is filing for a legal separation or drafting a legal separation agreement, a knowledgeable family law attorney will be a tremendous help in protecting marital assets and can help couples develop a parenting plan that works for their family. A written formalization of the agreement helps ensure that each party understands their rights and obligations.