Every marriage encounters rough spots (sometimes serious ones), but that does not mean that divorce is the only alternative. When some people first consult with our Minneapolis divorce lawyers about divorce, it sometimes becomes clear that the finality of divorce does not make sense. Even couples who have reasons to live apart may not necessarily want to immediately head into the divorce process.
Why Legal Separation Might Make Sense
Both legal separation and divorce are legally-binding contracts that will govern issues pertaining to the children, residence and property issues and even financial spousal maintenance, if appropriate. However, legal separations are temporary in nature. Even if they are in force for many years, both parties can typically change them more easily than the terms of divorce.
Without a doubt, divorce is essential for irreconcilable differences when either party wants to remarry or remove certain spousal financial rights, such as those that might arise with respect to inheritance issues. Still, there are a number of reasons why couples might want to take this approach, including the following:
- To work on the marriage: Often, couples in conflict cannot work out their issues while living together in close quarters. By adding some space, they have the opportunity to breathe between counseling sessions or other approaches so they can resolve their differences under controlled circumstances.
- To test the waters: In the heat of an emotional moment, a permanent split might seem attractive. Rather than discovering after divorce that living apart from a spouse or the children was not the correct choice, a temporary separation provides an accurate preview of life after divorce.
- To prepare the children: Particularly when the children will be grown and out of the house in the near future, parents might choose legal separation as a way to help the children deal with the situation until they are better equipped to handle it.
- Personal or religious beliefs: As long as neither party wants to remarry, legal separation might be a simpler choice. Additionally, some religions prohibit or discourage divorce.
Legal Separation Can Provide an Effective First Step toward Divorce
A common concern about legal separation is a practical one: in the event of divorce, the spouses must essentially go through an additional and expensive legal process. While it is impossible to estimate the precise costs associated with either legal separation or divorce, as a general rule, the additional costs are far less than you would expect them to be.
When couples negotiate legal separations, they are reaching an agreement on most of the issues involved in divorce. Since the legal separation is temporary, it tends to be easier and less costly to reach the agreement without emotions getting in the way.
If legally separated couples later decide to divorce, much of the hard work is behind them. By using the legal separation contract as a foundation for the final divorce decree, negotiating the final terms of divorce is typically a relatively simple matter. As an added benefit, the time spent apart often removes the emotional issues than can make cooperation challenging.
The Choice is Not Always Clear-Cut
When clients first start exploring divorce, they may not have considered legal separation as an option. Sometimes, after a frank conversation, one of our experienced Minneapolis divorce attorneys may point out the benefits of separation based on your specific situation. To get that conversation started, call us at (763) 783-5146 or use our convenient contact form