Is Legal Separation or Divorce Right for You?

Legal separation and divorce are not the same thing, though they can involve many of the same concepts, including child support and visitation. Whether you choose to become legally separated or file for divorce depends on your own preferences and situations. Keep reading to discover the major differences between these processes so you can decide what is right for you.

What Is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

The biggest difference is that divorce legally dissolves a marriage while legal separation does not.

If you go through the process of divorce, once the judge issues a divorce order, you are no longer married. You are both free to marry other people. If you go through the process of a legal separation, even after the legal process is complete, you remain legally married. That means you can’t legally marry someone else.

What Is Legal Separation, Exactly?

Legal separation is a legal process that involves filing paperwork with the courts. It is not the same thing as physical separation. Simply because one person moves out of the shared home and into another residence does not mean a couple is legally separated. To become legally separated, you must file with the courts.

Potential Benefits of Legal Separation

Legal separation affords couples many of the same options that they might have in a divorce for formally managing the distribution of property and issues such as child custody and support. Once a couple files for legal separation, they can also work through the court system to formalize custody, child support, and separation of property. They would not have this option if they simply separated physically, and not working through some of these issues in a well-mediated or formal legal manner might put a continued strain on the relationship.

So why wouldn’t a couple simply file for divorce if they want legal support for these processes? There are a number of reasons couples might choose legal separation, including:

  • Not wanting to give up on the marriage but realizing that the relationship is in serious trouble. Perhaps one spouse has a substance abuse problem to contend with or the individuals have grown in individual ways and need distance and counseling to find each other again. For whatever reason, many couples find that they need a way-stop in their marriage and that legal separation is a good option for them.
  • Believing divorce might be the right choice but not being sure. In a lot of ways, legal separation can act as a trial divorce. A couple can test how they do apart or whether they’re able to co-parent as they might like before they move on to divorce.
  • Wanting to maintain some financial benefits of marriage. In some cases, couples can retain certain benefits, such as health insurance, government benefits, and tax advantages, even when they are legally separated.

Requirements for Legal Separation in Indiana

Typically, you must be physically separated before or when you file for legal separation. Indiana law also has residence requirements for filing. One of the spouses in question must have been a resident of the state for at least 6 months and a resident for 3 months in the county where the legal separation is filed.

There may be other requirements or important factors to consider before you file for legal separation. This is especially true when there are children or complex financial matters involved. Speaking to an experienced family law attorney before you take any action regarding a legal separation can help you best plan your approach for the most positive outcomes for all.

It’s also important to note that you can’t exist forever in a state of legal separation. Once the order for legal separation is entered, you have 1 year to decide what you want to do. After that time period, the legal separation ends and you’re legally an unseparated married couple again unless you file for divorce.

Do You Have to Be Separated Before You Can File for Divorce?

You don’t have to file for legal separation before you file for divorce. You can even file for divorce without being physically separated. However, the divorce cannot be finalized until you have been separated for at least 60 days. This is a waiting period required by Indiana divorce procedures before courts will finalize a divorce.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney for Help With Your Case

Anyone who is married or has ever been married knows that marriage can be messy. When two people do life together to that degree, it’s not always easy. Putting the pause button on a marriage can also be messy, and, obviously, ending a marriage is a major process.

Because marriage—and the management or dissolution of it—is so complex, going through legal separation or divorce on your own isn’t always a great idea. If you aren’t sure you want to stay in a marriage or you and your spouse have reason to believe a legal separation is in order, consider getting legal help.

An experienced family law attorney can help you understand your rights and options, provide guidance on protecting your interests and those of your children, and handle the paperwork and other legal issues so you can spend time working on your marriage or moving on with your life after the end of one.

Call the Law Office of Deidra N. Haynes LLC at 317-785-1832 to speak to our family law team and find out how we can help.