When To Get a Legal Separation Instead of a Divorce

Uncontested Divorce Mediation

Posted May 24, 2023

The difference between a legal separation and a divorce is the severance of the marriage. In most other ways, they are handled with similar processes. A legal separation allows two spouses to form two separate households, divide their assets, stop filing jointly, and create a custody and/or support plan for children. A legal separation can also be reversed without the need to “remarry” to reform the union.

In the Denver family law business, we occasionally help couples who want to separate, but do not want to complete the process with a divorce. In fact, there are a surprising number of circumstances where a legal separation is the smart, practical answer for a couple who either still love each other and/or choose not to divorce for specific reasons. 

When should you get a legal separation, and when should that separation be instead of a divorce?

You Will Be Living Apart for a Long Time

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Married couples typically live together, sharing a household and living expenses as a unit. However, as two adults, you are also capable of separating your households and living apart – and sometimes life calls for this. Let’s say one spouse must relocate for work – possibly for several years – but their partner cannot move for family, medical, or career reasons of their own. 

If you must form two separate households for an extended period of time, a legal separation can simplify your separated finances, taxes, and household matters without severing the marriage. It can also reduce confusion – minimizing the mail and paperwork sent to the wrong spouse or that assumes the two of you will be filing jointly in years when you will not.

You Aren’t Divorcing, But You Need a Child Custody Agreement

Sometimes, custody agreements are needed without Denver divorce mediation. Take the spouses working in different cities who have not yet gone through a separation. However, they are having trouble establishing a fair parenting time routine and the issue has begun a major disagreement. In addition to keeping finances clean, a temporary or extended legal separation can allow you to forge a custody agreement that can keep a separated family balanced and healthy.

Legal separation makes it easier to handle the paperwork and the routine of moving your kids between two households. A separation Denver child custody agreement simplifies the matter the same way it would for a divorce.

You Are Purposefully Creating Two Financial and Legal Households

A legal household is made up of a primary wage earner and their dependents. Married wage earners tend to be considered as one household, but what if you need two? You can separate to purposefully create two financial and legal households.

You Will Officially be Occupying Different Primary Residences

There may come a time when you need two primary residences. A primary residence is a special definition that allows for certain purchasing, taxation, and local-registration conveniences. You and your spouse may need to reside in different states or hold down two different properties. In this case, a temporary legal separation will prevent you from being counted as a single married household.

You Will Be Residing in Different Countries

If you need to belong to separate nations or live in different states due to current circumstances, financial plans, or career paths, then you may separate your household and legally separate the marriage in order to do so.

The Marriage Isn’t Over, But It Might Be

Then there is the type of separation that most people are familiar with. Many couples going through a rocky time in their marriage will go through a temporary or even legal separation in order to regain space and clarity, then decide what to do next. A legal separation allows you to do this while living, working, and filing taxes separately. Absence may make the heart grow fonder and, if so, the separation can be legally reversed without any major impact on your life other than the interruption itself. If not, a legal separation transitions more easily into a complete divorce agreement as many of the divisions and terms have already been taken care of.

You Choose Not to Divorce for Religious or Cultural Reasons

Some relationships end, but the marriage does not. Many cultures and religions don’t believe in divorce and hold that spouses should tough it out as an official couple for the duration. If you share these beliefs or do not feel that you can safely divorce due to close friends and relatives who do, a legal separation is a safe and sane way to separate the relationship without severing the marriage.

Many couples who married young in cultures that do not divorce find that they have little in common as they grow older and more independent. With two careers, legal separation can allow you to establish two households and live as separately as your culture allows.

You Are Navigating the Terms of a Prenuptial Agreement

Some prenuptial agreements are no longer favorable to spouses when they decide they are done being a pair. When one spouse wants Denver divorce mediation but there are unpleasant prenuptial consequences that they will be held to, a legal separation is an interesting and helpful alternative. You can nullify or alter a prenuptial with the agreement of both spouses, but when one spouse won’t waive it or there are other influences at play preventing this decision, legal separation gives couples the option to stop acting or being legally treated as a married couple without risking unwanted prenuptial terms.

You Are Navigating the Terms of a Trust Fund

Likewise, some trust funds are more maritally intrusive than others. Some parents set up a trust fund that requires their child be married, stay married, or never divorce in order to receive the benefits. If you happen to no longer wish to be married to your current spouse, this can be a real problem. If you are navigating the terms of an unusually intrusive trust fund, the likes of which are worthy of haunted house plots, then a legal separation can allow you to cease marital arrangements with your spouse without officially becoming divorced. Of course, your spouse will also need to be amenable to this half-measure and may eventually want an official divorce in the long-term.

You Are Protecting One Spouse from The Other’s Financial or Legal Problems

Finally, there is the rare case where marital bonds might harm your partner. If one spouse gets into serious legal or financial trouble – or sees it on the horizon, they may be able to save the family’s finances with a legal separation. This can be used to sever financial ties to the shared family accounts and cease to file jointly on everything from taxes to party invitations. The separation can also be reversed, so that if/when the trouble blows over, you can return to joint marital bliss.

Legal separation is something that Split Simple can help you achieve. If you need a Denver family law attorney to help you build a legal separation agreement with your spouse, Contact Split Simple today. We can help you sort out your assets and custody agreement in one to three simple two-hour mediation sessions.

Split Simple

1624 Market Street #202

Denver, CO 80202