If your marriage isn’t working, a legal separation may be in order if you are not ready, willing, and able to divorce. While some couples quietly split up and live separately, having a formal agreement protects the rights of both parties. The separation papers also lay down the rules for child support and custody, property division, spousal support, and other financial matters. Especially when children are involved, it is important to make sure that they are provided for physically and emotionally while their parents consider their own relationship.
Why Consider Legal Separation?
You may consider separation for several reasons:
- You are not ready to divorce, but you and your spouse have emotional issues to work out that require some space between you.
- You and your mate want to try living separately before you make the decision on the next step.
- You may share a loving relationship with your mate, but cannot effectively live together.
- Divorce conflicts with your religious beliefs, so you prefer to remain legally married.
- You or your spouse need the health insurance benefits that the other’s policy provides to spouse.
In Washington, you can file for a legal separation even if you are still living with your spouse. Both spouses might agree to try a legal separation as a mutually beneficial step to split up financial responsibilities and determine child custody, but it can be more contentious. For example, if a spouse does not provide for the other when they have the means to do so, or is deserted by the other without sufficient cause, having a legal agreement in place clarifies responsibilities and forces the other to person to pay what they should.
If you change your mind about splitting up when a legal separation is in effect, you and your spouse can file a Motion to Vacate Decree of Legal Separation and reunite without having to remarry.
Issues Addressed In Separation Agreements
While separation agreements vary, these main issues are usually addressed:
- Spousal support.
- If one spouse makes payments to support the other, a legal agreement makes paying mandatory and also allows the person who writes the checks to deduct the payments on their taxes.
- Child custody.
- An agreement lays down the monetary dimensions of support and also considers custody and visitation.
- Marital benefits.
- The agreement puts it in writing that both spouses will continue to have health insurance coverage, share retirement benefits, and maintain inheritance rights.
- Maintenance of jointly held property.
- The paperwork addresses who pays for what to maintain the home, including the mortgage, homeowner association fees, repair costs, lawn care, utilities, and other expenses.
- Access to joint accounts.
- The agreement defines who has access to joint bank accounts to pay expenses or access to credit accounts. It may require each spouse to open their own accounts, while dividing responsibility for paying credit accounts.
- Limited liability for debts.
- In an equitable distribution state, the agreement protects a separated spouse for being responsible for debts the other incurred during separation.
Consult with Weintraub for Help Filing a Legal Separation
In an ideal world, separating spouses can work out many details of their separation by themselves and only come to the attorney when they need the papers filed with the court. For couples who cannot agree on complex financial and child custody issues, a good lawyer can help the negotiations without pushing for divorce.
If you are thinking of a legal separation, call Weintraub Law Offices for a consultation with a family law attorney.