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Legal Separation in Arizona: Everything You Need to Know

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Almost half of marriages today end in divorce. Divorce is an increasingly common and popular topic. Legal separation, on the other hand, isn't as openly discussed or well-known but is just as important. When marriages experience difficulties each party should know the options that are available and what those options entail. Legal separation in Arizona may resemble divorce but comes with critical distinctions and differences.

What Does Legal Separation Mean?

Legal separation is similar to divorce with a couple important exceptions. In a divorce, the assets and debts are separated and assigned to each party. Child custody and spousal support issues are decided and the marriage is dissolved. When two people decide to legally separate the same issues above are legally decided but the parties are not legally divorced. Here are several important distinctions between divorce and legal separation that should be taken into consideration:

  1. Health insurance:

Per federal law, divorced spouses are not allowed to be carried on one another's health insurance.  If one spouse has an inability to obtain adequate health insurance a legal separation may be a solution.  If a couple legally separates they can still carry the existing spouse on an insurance plan.  The legal separation offers the benefits of divorce and allows for the health insurance arrangement to remain the same.

  1. Religion:

Legal separation may also be appealing to people who cannot divorce due to religious reasons.  In the traditional Catholic church, if two people are married and the marriage meets the sacramental standards, they cannot be divorced in the eyes of the church.  If the sacramental standards were not met, the couple may choose to live apart or file for an annulment on the grounds that the marriage was not valid.  Legal separation offers an alternative to those who cannot obtain a divorce due to religious or moral convictions.

  1. Debts or other legal issues:

Money is an incredibly challenging issue in many marriages.  If there are substantial debts incurred by one party or money management problems, legal separation may be used to protect the other spouse.  If you file for legal separation and separate your finances, assets and debts through the courts, you may be protected from any future financial missteps that your spouse makes.  This is particularly helpful if one spouse has spending issues or a gambling problem.  Legal separation offers some financial protection for the party that needs it.

  1. The state of the marriage:

Legal separation allows two people that may be in a challenging marriage an opportunity to separate in the event of a divorce down the road.  Separating in this way can give clarity as to whether or not the parties want to proceed with a divorce or attempt a reconciliation.  Legal separation can help two people negotiate the terms of a possible divorce while still working on repairing the marriage.  If things don't work out many of the issues that complicate a divorce will have already been decided.

  1. Remarriage:

While legal separation may be a viable alternative to divorce for many, there are some downsides.  Without a legal divorce, a separated couple is not free to get remarried.  You can only remarry if you have obtained a legal divorce, or are widowed.  If you are legally separated from your spouse and find that you would like to get remarried to someone else you must follow the proper divorce proceedings.  However, if you and your existing spouse are legally separated and decide to reconcile, you can file a reversal to void the legal separation.

Legal Separation and Child Custody

Legal separation is similar to divorce in regards to custody of any minor children.  If you and your spouse legally separate and cease living together you will need to come up with an acceptable arrangement for dividing time with the children.  If you and your spouse are unable to agree, a judge will decide what is in the best interest of the children.  If both spouses can agree on a reasonable arrangement this can be submitted to the court for approval.  If you foresee issues negotiating child custody with your spouse, it is important to hire a skilled attorney and document any concerns or support you have for your custody proposal.

You Need a Lawyer for Your Legal Separation

While some people may not consider legal separation as serious as divorce, this is an inaccurate and potentially costly assumption.  Legal separation has financial and custodial ramifications that need to be taken seriously.  You are separating your finances, assets, debt and negotiating critical issues such as child custody and spousal support.  It is important that you have proper legal guidance when navigating these issues.  If you are considering a legal separation, please call us today.  We will explain your legal options and advocate for the best outcome possible.

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West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman P.L.L.C.

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Tucson, AZ 85711

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