by Steve Harton
Divorce or Legal Separation – A legal separation is just like a divorce, but the couple remains married. Property is divided and debts are assigned. If there are children involved, then custody, visitation and child support is established.
People occasionally ask us about getting a legal separation instead of a divorce. Some people would like a legal separation while they try to fix a troubled marriage. However, a divorce would probably be better for them, because if they work through their problems, then they can just get married again.
In order to undo a legal separation, the Parties can petition the Court to be discharged from the order of separation. The discharge may be easy, but the Parties must agree to it. Furthermore, combining the Parties’ separate assets might be difficult to do.
Some people think it might be cheaper than a divorce, but it isn’t.
Since a legal separation is just like a divorce, it should only be used in a few circumstances.
Advantages of Legal Separation
Although it is much like a divorce, a legal separation does provide some distinct advantages to couples in unique circumstances.
Maintain health insurance coverage – In many marriages, one of the spouses provides health insurance coverage through their employment to both parties. The legal separation can be used to split the parties’ property, but preserve the legal institution of marriage.
This arrangement could be useful for couples near “retirement” age, in order to maintain insurance coverage until medicare kicks in. This would normally be a temporary situation, and the parties would still need to get a divorce later.
Preserve marital assets – A legal separation could also help a couple where one of the spouses suffers from a disability that creates a potential financial liability. For instance, some people cannot control their spending, others have substance abuse issues. Some people have a diminished mental capacity, and are easily talked into signing unfair contracts. This could be a long term, or even permanent, arrangement.
Preserve the bond of marriage – Some people do not want to divorce for religious reasons. A legal separation accomplishes everything else a divorce does, but does not end the marriage. So, a legally separated couple lives just like a divorced couple, but they remain married on paper, and under the laws of their church.
Disadvantages of Legal Separation
The Parties are still married, so neither can marry another person.
In Wyoming, a legal separation is called a judicial separation, and the laws are found at W.S. § 20-2-106.
To view Wyoming’s legal separation statute, click here.
To learn more about legal separation, call the Harton Law Firm at 307-382-5545.
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