If your marriage just is not working, perhaps it has crossed your mind for your and your spouse to take a break from one another. Many couples feel unease about the finality of a complete split and opt for a legal separation in lieu of a divorce. Knowledge about the process and legalities of legal separation can help couples to make informed, well-reasoned decisions.
What is a Legal Separation?
The truth is, a legal separation gives couples the chance to divide their assets and debts and live separate lives if they choose, without completely terminating the marriage. The process is similar to that of divorce, with one person filing for the separation, and the other responding. Assets must be declared, custody arrangements must be made if minor children are involved, and support payments must be agreed upon. Ultimately, the couple becomes two separate entities, while retaining their legal marital status.
Some Legal Terminology to Know
Those entering such an agreement may be unfamiliar with some key terminology that will be applicable to their circumstances:
- Date of Separation: This is the date that reflects the intent of the couple to separate, and is the date around which community property determinations are made. Any assets and debts accrued before this date will be split evenly between the parties, whereas anything attained after this day will belong to the individual who acquired it.
- Judgment of Legal Separation: This is a document addressing the agreements upon the attainment of legal separation. It includes financial matters, custody issues, and support arrangements.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Legal Separation?
There is no waiting period for a legal separation to go into effect, assuming both parties agree to the stipulations in the Judgment of Legal Separation, nor are there residency requirements associated with legal separation in California. Once that document is signed, the final Judgment may be entered and the separation is legit. So, as soon as the paperwork is complete, couples can become legally separated.
Couples have many reasons to consider legal separation rather than severing the marriage altogether. Some common factors include:
- Indecision as to the desired outcomes;
- Health insurance issues;
- Immigration concerns;
- Religious beliefs forbidding divorce.
Your marital status is important to consider as you file with the IRS. You are allowed to file as Single, and may claim Head of Household if you keep a household for a minor child. Likewise, you could choose to file as Married, or as Married filing separately. Continue reading →