Trial Separation vs. Legal Separation: What’s the Difference
During marital difficulties, taking time apart from your spouse can prove beneficial for many reasons. For some couples, taking a break can reinforce the need to communicate and make a renewed effort to make the marriage work, whereas others might realize that they’re better off starting a new path independently.
Regardless of the reason, if you and your spouse are having marital problems, you may be considering a separation before you file for a divorce. However, there are different ways married couples can “separate.” Whether you opt for a trial separation or a legal separation, its best to know your options before deciding.
A trial separation is an unofficial separation between spouses. Essentially, a trial separation means couples live independently and work through the details of their split on their own, without court interference. If the couple needs to share parenting time with their children, or if one spouse needs financial support in order to live independently, they will need to negotiate their own terms without any legally binding documents.
If couples want something more substantial to support their split, they might choose to file for a legal separation instead.
Through a legal separation, married couples can negotiate legal terms for their separation in matters such as finances and shared property, including child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. They must file their separation through the court and go through major decision-making processes like a divorcing couple. However, they will remain legally married.
In other words, if you are legally separated, you and your spouse are held legally accountable for any agreements you make. If your spouse fails to pay court-ordered child support as stipulated in your legal separation agreement, you may hold him or her accountable. In a trial separation, such mistakes or changes would be difficult to contest because the separation agreement is not legally binding.
Because separated couples are legally married, they cannot remarry without divorcing first. Legal separations are easier to convert to a divorce, since most of the legal legwork has been done.
Couples who choose to file for a legal separation sometimes do so because they do not wish to divorce for religious purposes, to protect medical or other benefits, or have other reasons they are not willing to dissolve their marriage. Whatever the situation, if you think a legal separation is the best option for you, our firm can help. Read more on our blog to see if legal separation is right for you.
Contact McKinley Irvin to get started on your legal separation case.