If your marriage is on the rocks and you’re not sure what to do about it, you should know that divorce is not the only option. Legal separation is a common alternative to traditional divorce that is often used by couples that no longer want to live together but don’t want to officially end their marriage. Not every state recognizes or allows legal separation, so it’s important to know whether the option exists in your state before moving forward.
What is Legal Separation?
Divorce, even one conducted amicably through divorce mediation, signals the end of the marriage. However, there is another path if you decide you can no longer live together but do not want the finality of divorce. That path is legal separation. Legal separation allows you to live apart from your spouse while still remaining legally married. However, you will still have to decide important issues like child custody and equitable distribution of assets.
A separation agreement will require both parties to come to an agreement on a range of issues including:
- Equitable Distribution of Assets and Debts
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Parenting Time
- Alimony (or Spousal Support)
For information about legal separations, see our Comprehensive Guide to Legal Separation in New Jersey.
Which States Allow Legal Separation?
Nearly every state in the US allows and recognizes legal separation. There are only six states where legal separation is not an option:
In some states it is required that couples receive legal advice from an attorney before a separation agreement can be made legally binding.
What if My State Doesn’t Allow a Legal Separation?
If you live in a state that does not offer the option of legal separation, you will have to make arrangements regarding finances and child custody using the processes available in your jurisdiction. There may be alternatives similar to legal separation that don’t require you to get a typical divorce.
Benefits of Legal Separation Over Divorce
The key difference between legal separation and divorce is that although you are living apart, you are still considered legally married. This has several benefits over divorce, including:
- Religious Reasons – You or your spouse may object to divorce on religious or moral grounds.
- Tax Benefits – You and your spouse will still qualify for the tax benefits marriage provides.
- Healthcare and Insurance Benefits – One spouse can remain eligible for the healthcare and insurance benefits of the other spouse. Note that there is sometimes fine print that disallows legally separated couples from gaining these benefits.
- Government Benefits – One spouse will soon become eligible for their spouse’s government benefits such as Social Security.
- Potential for Future Reconciliation – If the couple feels that they may reconcile their differences after time apart.
- Less Stress Than Divorce – Some couples may find separation a less stressful process compared to divorce.
Consider Separation Mediation in NJ
Separation mediation helps couples move on with their lives in a collaborative and positive manner without total dissolution of a marriage. When it comes to mediation, Mr. Menack has helped many couples reach a fair agreement together over the course of 25 years. If legal separation and separation mediation seem like the right call for you and your spouse, do not hesitate to contact us in order to find out more about the mediation process.