Over the past several years we at Liaise Divorce Solutions have seen a notable new phenomenon. In the past, people seeking to secure a legal separation were very rare, as most people were only interested in marital dissolution. Today it seems that a significant percentage of our marital mediations are seeking an Order of Legal Separation, not Dissolution.
When I first started practicing law, back in the early eighties, the only time that I can recollect helping people to achieve a legal separation was when one or both parties observed strict religious constraints on divorce. Nowadays it seems as if a quite a few of our customers are looking for a legal separation as the solution to their marital problems.
There are important differences between Dissolution and Legal Separation. Legal Separation does not put an end to the marriage. The Court enters an Order that sets forth the rights and obligations of each spouse while they are living apart. The Order typically deals with the division of assets and debts, child custody, visitation and support and spousal support, if any. A Judgment of Legal Separation is binding on outside parties, such as creditors, who might seek to collect post-separation money from the non-borrowing spouse.
Many of the same issues faced in a divorce are dealt with in a Legal Separation and the resulting Legal Separation Agreement may provide that if either party should move the Court for an Order of Dissolution, the current Agreement will be the basis of that Order. For many couples the foremost difference between Legal Separation and Dissolution is that neither party is free to re-marry.
There is no great mystery as to why we are seeing an increase in Legal Separation over Divorce. The single most important element in this decision is clearly the fact that only one of the parties has medical benefits from their employment and the recognition that leaving their non-employee spouse without medical coverage would be a devastating blow to their financial and physical well being. Since the parties are still married, the employer is still obliged to provide the medical coverage.
It is very important that parties who wish to secure a Legal Separation have expert guidance in the drafting of their Marital Separation Agreement and in the revision of their estate plans. There is a popular myth that once an Order of Legal Separation, or for that matter Dissolution, is entered that there is an automatic impact upon such important assets as bank accounts, retirement plans and insurance beneficiaries. This is not the case. You must plan through a Marital Settlement Agreement and a subsequent estate plan just how you want these important matters to be addressed.
Do yourself and your family a great service. If you are contemplating a Marital Dissolution, or Legal Separation, hire the professional mediators at Liaise Divorce Solutions to guide you through the process. You will save thousands of dollars and miles of hear