Any Maryland resident who has experienced divorce understands how daunting the entire process can be, as well as the difficulty of ending a marriage. Some people who have made the decision to split choose to seek a legal separation rather than, or before, pursuing a divorce. This alternative allows a couple to stay married while living separately and, for various reasons, may be a good option for some separating couples. Many separating couples do not know the differences between legal separation and divorce.
What does legal separation mean?
A legal separation allows spouses to live separately, yet remain legally married, while divorce ends a marriage. Typically, a legal separation agreement will cover all the issues that would be covered in a divorce decree, and it can serve as a divorce settlement agreement should the couple decide to divorce after a separation period, provided both spouses are satisfied with the terms. For example, a legal separation agreement can include aspects such as spousal support, division of assets and if children are involved, child support, visitation schedule, etc. If a couple decides to divorce, and one or both parties are not satisfied with the separation agreement, they can petition the court to make changes. The court may accept the written agreement without changes or order that specific terms be updated, particularly if circumstances have changed with respect to any minor children.
Why choose legal separation?
A couple who has decided to part ways may choose legal separation over divorce, at least for awhile, for a variety of reasons. For one, many separating couples find a legal separation arrangement allows them time to think about whether they actually want to divorce, while living apart and away from many marital conflicts. Many people also enjoy greater financial stability through legal separation rather than divorce, since benefits such as health insurance remain intact during a legal separation but will end in the event of divorce. For some, a legal separation is preferable to divorce for religious reasons, if one’s religion forbids or frowns upon divorce.
For most, ending a marriage is a major life decision, and for that reason alone, a couple may decide to legally separate before finalizing the split with a divorce. In any case, the important issues that must be negotiated before a legal separation and/or divorce can seem overwhelming. Many divorcing couples in Maryland find an attorney experienced in family law to answer their questions.