Legal Separation May Be a First Step to Divorce
As an alternative (or precursor, in many cases) to divorce, many couples choose to file for a legal separation. As with a dissolution of marriage, one spouse must be a resident of Indiana for at least six months prior to filing for a legal separation and must be a resident of the county where the petition is filed for at least 90 days.
A Legal Separation is Temporary
Unlike dissolution of marriage, a legal separation is only temporary. A court may order a legal separation for up to one year if it finds that:
- The conditions in or circumstances of the marriage make it intolerable for the parties to live together.
- The marriage should be maintained.
- Neither of the parties has filed for a dissolution of marriage.
After the term of legal separation expires, the parties regain their status as a married couple.
Reasons for Filing for a Legal Separation
Legal separations are generally filed by couples whose religious beliefs prohibit divorce or who, for personal or financial reasons, simply do not want to dissolve their marriage at this time. Typically, couples who choose to file for a legal separation will face many of the same issues that must be determined during the dissolution of the marriage process, such as custody of children, child support, and payment of bills, etc.
Arrangements must be made for temporary child custody agreements, parenting time schedules, child support and division of marital property during the period of separation. Once a couple has filed for a legal separation, all property and debts accrued after the separation are deemed the property or responsibility of the party who accrued them and are not considered marital assets.
No Reason for the Separation Needed When You File
As with divorce, the filing party does not have to establish any reasons or assign any blame in order to seek a legal separation. Legal separation can be just as complicated as the dissolution of marriage, and the determinations as to child custody, support, and division of property can have profound implications on all involved in the event that the separation ultimately leads to divorce.
To ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal separation process, you should consult an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney or mediator to represent your interests during this difficult time.
The legal separation process can be as emotionally draining and legally complex as the dissolution of a marriage, and you should not proceed without the advice of an experienced family law attorney or mediator.