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Could a Legal Separation be a Better Option Than Divorce?

On behalf of Gregory W. Stevens, Attorney at Law on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

Ending a marriage is not easy, and although it is much like a divorce, a legal separation might be preferable for several reasons.

In the state of Utah, legal separation is more properly called an action for “separate maintenance” and begins with the filing of a petition in the local court.

A Little Background

A divorce decree officially ends the union of two people. If you file a petition for separate maintenance, you and the other party will go through much the same process as you would have in a divorce. You will divide your assets and debts, address the question of child custody, establish a visitation plan and arrange for alimony payments, also called spousal support. You will live apart and pursue your separate lives. The only difference is that when you are legally separated, you will remain married.

Opting for Legal Separation

Financial issues are a major reason for choosing legal separation over divorce. It could be that one party wishes to remain married in order to maintain coverage under the other party’s company health care plan. Also, for the nonworking party to receive Social Security benefits from the other party’s earnings, the couple must remain married for 10 years. Legal separation is also an option for those whose religion does not allow divorce. On the other hand, knowing that divorce is final, some couples opt for a legal separation to find out how they really feel about their marriage and how well they will get along on their own.

Possibility of Mediation

If there are issues that you have not resolved before filing a petition for separate maintenance, the court will require the two of you to submit to mediation, a process by which a trained mediator will help guide you in working toward a mutually satisfactory separation agreement. If at a later time, you want to convert the separation into a divorce, you can file a motion to do so.