Legal Separation is a legal status in which the spouses are freed from most legal obligations to each other and have given up most legal rights with regard to the other. A legally separated person is neither married nor single.

Procedure. The procedures for starting and completing an action for a legal separation are identical to those required for dissolution of marriage. Obtaining a legal separation is typically not any faster or easier than obtaining a dissolution of marriage (a divorce). Orders of property division, alimony, child support and custody are available in a legal separation as they are in a dissolution case.

Income Taxes. Legally separated spouses are treated as single for federal tax purposes.

Typical Reasons for Obtaining Legal Separation Rather Than Dissolution.

  • Religious or moral commitments.
  • Health insurance. Sometimes one spouse’s health insurance plan will continue benefits for the legally separated spouse as if there were no legal separation.  The particular plan in each case must be reviewed.
  • Addiction of one spouse – drugs, alcohol, or gambling.

Reconciliation. Legally separated spouses may reconcile, resume their marital relationship and have the legal separation terminated by filing a declaration of resumption (of marital relations) with the court.

Conversion to Dissolution. So long as legally separated spouses have not “resumed their marital relationship,” they may have their marriage dissolved by filing with the court a motion to convert a legal separation to a dissolution.

A court will typically respect the financial orders entered as part of the judgment of legal separation and not change these when converting the separation to a dissolution of marriage. Be aware however, that the court does have the power to disregard all or part of these legal separation financial orders if it determines that due to changed circumstances, such orders are no longer fair and equitable.

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