If a couple is not yet ready for divorce, but wants to live separately and to be considered separately for purposes of finances, taxation and other legalities, they can file for a legal separation. In a legal separation, the parties are still married, versus a divorce where the marriage is ended. A legal separation is a court order that mandates the rights and duties of a couple while they are still married, but living apart. In a divorce, the spouses are no longer married. Legal separations are not too common, but can be helpful to a situation where the spouses work through any personal or financial issues affecting the marriage.
In proceedings for legal separation, the court decides the following, much as it would in divorce proceedings:
- Separation maintenance: this includes spousal and child support, but is called something different to distinguish it from the effects of a divorce. The court papers for separation maintenance are usually filed by a lawyer through what is referred to as a “motion pending litigation”. The court’s decision on awards for separation maintenance does influence what each spouse is awarded should they later continue to divorce proceedings.
- Child custody
- Child visitation
- Property division
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