Filing for divorce can be expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally taxing. For many couples who want to change or dissolve their union, divorce is the best option. But if you’re still deciding whether divorce is right for you and your spouse, here are some other ideas to consider.
A trial separation is not a legal designation. However, it is something many couples choose to undergo before deciding if they will continue to stay married. If you and your spouse have children, it is beneficial to agree upon custody and childcare terms during your separation, even if they are ultimately temporary.
In some states, if you and your spouse maintain your own residences for a certain amount of time, you are considered permanently separated. This means that neither of you will be responsible for any new debts the other incurs. You will not have legal rights to any new assets the other party acquires or earns either. However, your shared assets will remain shared.
The terms of permanent separation vary by state. Even if you and your spouse are considered permanently separated by your state’s law, going out together or cohabitating even briefly could undo your “permanently separated” status.
Legal separation is a formal status in most states. Courts grant this status after a petition from one or both members of the couple. Living in a separate residence from your spouse, which may result in a permanent separation, does not automatically bring about a legal separation.
A couple might choose legal separation instead of divorce for many reasons. Some couples want to dissolve their marriage while still allowing one of the partners to remain on the other partner’s health care plan. Some couples prefer to avoid divorce for religious reasons. If the couple has children, a legal separation may be the best way to ensure the family stays together. This is crucial in cases where one or both parents are not U.S. citizens.
If you are not yet sure whether you want a divorce, a legal separation can help you and your spouse separate assets and come to a custody agreement without formally dissolving your marriage. But if you or your legally separated spouse wishes to marry someone else in the future, you will need to formally divorce before doing so.
For couples who have determined they would like to divorce, mediation may be faster and cheaper than a divorce in court. This is because mediation does not require each member of the couple to have a separate lawyer. During mediation, the couple will meet with a neutral third party to decide how to fairly separate assets. Issues like child custody and child support will be decided as well.
An attorney will review all the terms of a mediation agreement before the process concludes. After signing the mediation, the couple is formally divorced.
Mediation is not a good option if you are not aware of every aspect of your spouse’s finances. If your spouse is hiding assets or not properly disclosing income, the mediation process will not uncover this.
Annulment is a legal designation that allows the law to treat your marriage as if it never happened. Religious divorces are not legally binding but may help a separating couple maintain standing in their spiritual community. The court usually grants civil annulments, which are legally binding, in extreme cases, such as when one spouse fails to disclose a previous incarceration. After a civil annulment, spouses may not seek financial support from each other in the future.
To request a consultation for your divorce or separation, call the Law Office of Paul Bowen at (727) 773-1554.