Separation vs Divorce

Separation vs. Divorce: How Property, Assets, Debts and Other Marital Issues Are Handled In Court

Many folks do not know what the term “separated” means, and there’s a very good reason for that: there are four types of separation. And, believe it or not, how a couple separates can have a serious effect on property ownership.

1 – Trial Separation

A trial separation occurs when a couple decides to separate temporarily to see if they’d like to make it permanent. Even when the spouses decide to not get back together, assets and debts they have accumulated and incurred during the trial separation are seen a marital property. After all, this kind of separation is not legally recognized but a point in a couple’s relationship.

2 – Living Away From Each Other

Couples who don’t live in the same residence are thought of as living apart. Some states look at living apart without the possibility of getting back together as changing the couples’ property rights. For instance, several states look at property and debts accumulated and incurred after the separation as being separate. Other states view it as joint property and debt until the divorce complaint has been filed in court. Some states say the couple will need to live apart for a period of time before they can file a no-fault divorce.

3 – Permanent Separation

Should a couple choose to split up permanently, it’s known as a permanent separation. It usually follows the trial separation or starts immediately after the couple begins living away from each other. In the majority of states, assets and debts that occur during this time are separate assets and debts and is the responsibility of the person that has them. However, debts that occur after the separation and before divorce are generally joint debts if they’re done so for necessities like home maintenance and taking care of the children.

The couple’s decision to move away from each other permanently is not legal unless one person files for the legal separation rather than a divorce.

4 – Legal Separation

A legal separation occurs when the couple splits and the court gives its terms for the division of property, child support, visitation, custody and alimony. However, the court doesn’t grant the petitioners a divorce. While this not very common, there are circumstances where spouses don’t want their marriage ended due to financial, religious or personal reasons. However, the certainty of the court order says they are not together legally and deals with the same issues that divorces decide on. Often times, spouses can seek an alternative way of finding solutions to issues such as child custody and spousal support, which would have been through the divorce court otherwise.

Any money that’s awarded to the support of the children and spouse under this circumstance is known as separate maintenance. Separate maintenance, in some states, can be attained by filing a pending litigation motion. A lawyer will typically file for this motion, which will set the stage for what’s awarded in a divorce judgment.