Legal Separation: When Should You Consider This Option Instead Of A Divorce?

While not all states provide this option, legal separation is sometimes a better option for spouses than divorce. During a legal separation, both you and your spouse remain married. However, your finances will be divided, you will live in separate households and you will share visitation rights with your children similar to a divorce.

When should this option be considered? Read on to find out when a legal separation may be beneficial for you and your spouse.

1. You Have Religious Objections to Divorce

A common reason why couples choose to get a legal separation instead of a divorce is due to religious beliefs. Most notably, the Roman Catholic Church does not allow divorce. They do allow for separation, although this is not considered ideal. By pursuing a legal separation, you can live in accordance with your religious beliefs while also effectively living a separate life from your spouse.

2. You're Close to Retirement Age and Haven't Been Married Ten Years

Social Security income is based on your work history. If you haven't worked at least ten years during your career, you won't be eligible. You can collect half of an ex-spouse's Social Security income based on their earning history, but you need to be married for ten years first.

If you won't be eligible for Social Security, then remaining married until you hit the ten-year mark is a good idea. You'll at least be able to receive some form of income. Afterwards, you can convert from a legal separation to a divorce but continue to receive benefits.

Likewise, many pension plans provide benefits for ex-spouses, and they have similar eligibility requirements. Remaining married until you're eligible for your spouse's pension benefits will help you financially.

3. You're Not Sure You're Ready for a Divorce

You're allowed to reverse a legal separation at any time. Divorce is permanent (although you could always remarry.) If things aren't working out between you and your spouse, you could always consider a legal separation as a form of trial divorce. With a legal separation, you can see how you feel about living apart without the finality of divorce.

4. You Need to Keep Health Insurance Benefits

If you or your spouse needs to keep employer-provided health insurance, you can sometimes file for legal separation instead of filing for divorce. Not all employer benefit plans support this, however, and some will require you to pay higher premiums if you and your spouse are legally separated. If the employer does provide benefits to the legally separated spouse, however, then it's a good way to maintain health insurance coverage.

As you can see, legal separation can be preferable to divorce in some circumstances. If you think that legal separation is the right choice for you and your spouse, contact a legal separation lawyer in your area—they can help you file the paperwork necessary and go through the court proceedings regarding your separation.