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Legal Separation


In the past, people used to list their relationship status on Facebook as single, in a relationship, married, and “it’s complicated.”  These relationship statuses depended entirely on one’s own perception of the relationship; it is possible that one member of an on-again off-again couple might describe her relationship status as “in a relationship” while her maybe boyfriend or maybe ex might describe it as “it’s complicated.”  These are not legally recognized categories.  According to the law, you are either single or married; if you were previously married, but your marriage ended in divorce or upon the death of your spouse, you are single.  Consider that the law does not recognize such a thing as an engaged couple; the recipient of a fiancée visa is an unmarried person who intends to marry the petitioner within 90 days of arriving in the United States or else lose his or her visa status.  Is there an intermediate marital status between single and married?  If a couple gets a legal separation, it is the closest thing the law recognizes to an “it’s complicated” marital status.  To find out whether getting legally separated from your spouse is the right option for you, contact a Birmingham legal separation lawyer.

How Does the Legal Separation Process Work?

The steps to getting a legal separation are very similar to the steps for getting a divorce.  One spouse files a petition for legal separation, and the other spouse files a response, or else they jointly file one petition.  They submit financial disclosures and attend mediation.  At the end of mediation, or if necessary, after a trial, they emerge with a property settlement agreement that divides marital assets and debts and may even contain provisions about spousal support.  If the couple has minor children, the court will issue a parenting plan; most couples reach an agreement about the terms of their parenting plan through mediation.  Based on the parenting plan, the court will issue a child support order.

The difference is in the end result.  At the end of a legal separation, the parties are still legally married, even though none of their property remains marital.

Is Legal Separation a Road to Divorce or to Reconciliation?

The reasons for choosing a legal separation instead of a divorce are many, from religious beliefs about the permanence of marriage to the pragmatic decision not to render one spouse ineligible for the other’s employer-provided health insurance benefits or for a share of the other spouse’s retirement pension.  If the parties remain legally separated until one of them dies, the probate court considers them married, and the surviving spouse can claim an elective share of the estate.

It is easy to reconcile after a legal separation; it doesn’t require a whole new wedding.  If a legally separated couple decides to divorce, they must file a whole new divorce petition, but the divorce should be simple, because the marital property has already been divided.

Contact Peeples Law About Legal Separation

A Birmingham family law attorney can help you finalize your legal separation as painlessly as possible.  Contact Peeples Law today to schedule a consultation.



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