If you and your spouse have decided that living together as a married couple is no longer best, you face some difficult decisions. Choosing between divorce, legal separation, or informal separation can be overwhelming, especially when emotions are high as a lawyer like a family lawyer in Colorado from a law firm such as Zweig Law, PC, can explain. You may be wondering which options should involve hiring a lawyer to advocate for your best interests.
For many couples, some sort of separation is the initial step when marriage is no longer tenable. Here are a few considerations as you explore your options and determine whether you will need legal counsel.
Are There Benefits to Legal Separation Over Divorce?
It is important to note that legal separation is different from an informal or trial separation. With informal separation, you and your spouse simply choose to live apart without any legal ramifications. A legal separation is recognized by the court and carries implications for the division of assets, custody factors, and other financial matters.
The main difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that a divorce ends the marriage. During a legal separation, you and your partner are still married under the law. While the court can divide property and resolve custody issues in a legal separation, one spouse can still receive social security benefits, pension, or health insurance coverage from the other spouse. Couples may also still be able to file taxes jointly. Once you are divorced, all spousal benefits are terminated.
What Are the Steps to Filing for Legal Separation?
To begin the process of legal separation, you will need to petition the court using forms that can usually be found on your state or county court’s website. The process is somewhat different in each state, but generally a first step is to serve a summons to your spouse to inform them that you have begun proceedings for legal separation.
You will need to research and prepare your petition carefully to make sure you cover all financial, property, and custodial factors. The process will be smoother if you and your spouse are able to agree on these terms.
In many states, legal separations have legal time limits, such as up to a year. After the time limit, you will need to revisit the legal recognition of the separation and choose whether the terms should shift to a final divorce.
How Can a Lawyer Help With Legal Separation?
Making major decisions about how to handle shared finances, deal with property, and handle custody can be tricky, especially when you will need to put those decisions into a written agreement. Working with a family lawyer in Colorado can help to ensure that you have met all obligations and settled with your spouse in a way that protects your legal rights and your future.