5 Tips to Broaden Your Options During a Separation

There are many reasons couples decide to separate. The situation is not always as clear as an immediate decision for a divorce. A separation is a period of time apart for a married couple to make plans for the future. Some couples separate as the first step in a divorce, but others work out a legal or physical separation in hopes of reconciling their marriage.

Legal separation is not the same as a divorce. Since you are still legally married, you still share many financial, physical, and legal responsibilities with your spouse. A separation is always difficult and can be emotionally overwhelming. You do have options during your separation to make the path to your future easier to follow. Gathering information early is a good way to ensure hasty decisions do not create regrets in the future.
Make it Legal
Whether or not you plan to go forward with a divorce, it is critical to consult a divorce attorney and draw up a legal separation agreement. If you are facing separation, it is safe to say that you and your spouse have disagreements. Legally, married couples share finances, possessions, and responsibilities. Even if you are living separately from your spouse for many months, you both share any incurred debt, property, and earnings until you are legally divorced. A separation agreement defines the terms of your separation. This agreement is vital in keeping you out of a potentially vulnerable financial situation.

Your separation agreement should cover many details. It is important to consider any subjects that are relevant to your unique situation. There are some common points which should be included in the agreement.

Debts created by the separation – If you and your spouse are entering a physical separation, many additional bills will be created. It is important to outline how these debts will be divided.
Visitation rights and custody of the children – This should be worked out immediately with a predictable schedule.
Joint accounts – You must decide whether you will continue to share joint bank accounts and credit cards during the separation and how expenses will be shared.
Insurance – Most married couples share health, auto, home, and life insurance policies. Couples must agree on how everything remains covered.
Property and debt division – All property and debt gained during the course of a marriage legally belongs equally to both parties. Any decisions regarding these items will likely remain the same if you go forward with a divorce.
Alimony or child support – If one spouse has been financially responsible while the other takes care of the home and children, finances must be worked out so the needs of the family are still met.
Income taxes – This issue is an important financial item that might be overlooked.

Know Your Options

There are different ways to approach separation. Some couples separate with plans to divorce, some hope for reconciliation, and others plan to stay apart but never seek a divorce. There are options to help you create the best environment for any situation. Three main types of separation are recognized.

Trial Separation – A trial separation usually occurs when a couple decides to take time apart to decide between reconciliation and divorce. During a trial separation, your finances and property ownership will still be viewed jointly like during marriage.
Legal Separation – Some states allow couples to file a legal separation in family court. You are not divorced, so you cannot remarry. A legal separation requires the division of property and decisions about alimony, child support, and visitation just like divorce. However, you still maintain some legal connections. This decision often involves children and joint expenses.
Permanent Separation – Sometimes couples separate with no intention of getting back together or getting a divorce. In this situation, debts and assets gained during the separation belong only to the spouse who acquires them. State laws vary about property rights during permanent separation, so it is important to know all the laws in your area.
Understand Your Finances
During marriage, it is common for all finances to be combined. If you don't know everything about your spouse's financial intentions, you can be in a very vulnerable position during a separation. It is common for one spouse to handle the finances in a marriage. However the money is earned, it is very easy for the person who is not in control of the bank account to be completely unaware of many financial burdens. It is vital for both parties to fully understand all income, debt, and investments. Only after a full understanding, can couples begin to work out a financial agreement for separation.
Make Legal Decisions Early
The legal details of separation often carry long-term consequences. As soon as a separation begins, it is necessary to follow through with the legal obligations. The details of a separation often become permanent rules that will carry into divorce proceedings. While you may be planning for reconciliation, preparing for a divorce during separation is a necessary step. A legal separation order does not have to be filed with the court, but it can be used to resolve a later dispute.
Sometimes couples are so emotionally overwhelmed at the onset of separation, they rush decisions thinking changes can be adopted in the future. However, when a divorce occurs there is no room for
changes, and you may be permanently stuck with the results of what you thought was a temporary plan.



Understand the Rules of Separation
Couples do not always separate with the intention of divorce. However, a divorce is sometimes unavoidable. A casual separation may hold dangerous consequences if you don't understand how the court views separation. If a divorce results from separation, the date of separation becomes decided by the time the couple spent together. Without a legal separation date, you and your spouse may disagree on assets contained in the divorce.

Some couples separate with no plans for divorce. They are working to fix the marriage and may go out on dates and have sexual relations. This works fine for couples who eventually reunite. However, the court will likely view the beginning of your separation differently if you are still having relations with your spouse. The date a separation began becomes a vital point in a divorce to decide how to separate assets. 

A separation is a painful and confusing journey. It is difficult to work through all of the important decisions when you are facing an uncertain future. To learn your options and protect your rights, contact a Brisbane based divorce attorney to navigate the terms of your separation.

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