Legal separation may trump divorce.
Is legal separation the best option for your marriage – and your bank account?
Many couples who find themselves on the rocks choose to go the trial separation route. But what happens when this test run becomes permanent? Should wives seek a divorce; should husbands file for a legal separation? There are many reasons couples are choosing to stay legally married long after they throw in the his and hers towels.
First, what is the difference between legal separation and trial separation?
It’s important to recognize that legal separation is a major change in the status of your marriage. A legal separation, rather than a trial separation, is a distinct legal product, not just a first step to getting a divorce. In fact, legal separation takes as long as a divorce and can cost just as much. However, finding an Ohio family relations lawyer can be the best way to protect yourself financially if you don’t see divorce in the near future.
(In Ohio, the grounds for legal separation are the same as divorce: rationale such as adultery, gross neglect of duty, extreme cruelty, habitual drunkenness, fraud, living apart for more than one year and incompatibility.)
A written separation agreement can help protect you if your spouse gets into hot water. For example, if your spouse misses a credit card payment, the creditor can still seek damages against you for joint debts if you have an informal separation. While no domestic court can alter the original debtor/creditor relationship of a joint debt, if properly negotiated the separation agreement or other document should require the debt to be paid or “balance transferred” into the spouse’s individual name. Legally determining issues such as splitting marital assets, paying for maintenance and so on can go a long toward avoiding litigation down the road.
As Marilyn Chinitz, Partner at Blank Rome, tells Forbes, a legal separation agreement can help you mitigate some financial risk.
“Indeed, as time goes on, communication and cooperation with your estranged spouse may no longer exist. Your agreement should give you ready access to liquid assets – you may need these assets to pay bills,” Chinitz explains. “Most importantly, if you separate without an agreement, you may not receive your share of the marital assets acquired which may be depleted or lost because you were unaware of how your estranged spouse was managing the funds or marital business.”
Is legal separation the best decision for you?
Legal separation may be a good financial option if you need to:
- Continue receiving health insurance benefits under your husband’s plan
- Take advantage of potential tax benefits from filing jointly
- Retain certain military benefits
But it’s not always about the checking account. Some couples choose legal separation because of religious beliefs or moral values against divorce. Or in some cases, couples may find that they still love each other, but just can’t live together. In both scenarios, separation may be the best option.
If you’re considering a separation and looking for an Ohio family relations lawyer, get in touch with the lawyers at Weis + O'Connor today.