If you and your spouse have come to the end of the line in your marriage, the logical next step is divorce.
However, you may not want a divorce for a variety of reasons. If so, a legal separation might be a worthwhile option to consider.
About legal separation
If you and your spouse choose to engage in a legal separation, you will reside in separate homes and live separate lives, but you will remain married. You are not single, and you are not free to marry anyone else unless you proceed with a divorce.
Why couples may want a legal separation
Religious beliefs may cause you to choose a legal separation because your faith may not permit divorce. Another reason to remain legally married is so that you can retain coverage under your spouse’s company health insurance plan. Furthermore, you may want to remain married for 10 years if you are a military spouse since this will make you eligible to receive benefits under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. The magic number for years of marriage is also 10 if you hope to receive a larger share of Social Security benefits from the earnings of your spouse. Additionally, some couples do not want to divorce and give up the tax benefits they derive from filing jointly.
Many couples who experience a rough spot in their relationship will choose legal separation. Having time apart affords them the opportunity to think things through before either giving marriage another try or committing to divorce.
The separation agreement
Your attorney will assist in preparing a legal separation agreement, which will include all the points you would expect to find in a final divorce decree: property division, spousal support, child custody, child support and visitation schedules. It is important that you are satisfied with the final result. If you decide to divorce at a later date, the judge will assume that you were happy with this agreement and it will become the basis for your divorce settlement.