DEFINE LEGAL SEPARATION
How do you define legal separation? When a divorce seems imminent, a married couple inquires about the possibility of "legal separation".
Some states refer to separation by other names, such as "separate maintenance" or a "marital property settlement".
When people use the term "legal separation", they are referring to a situation where a court has entered an order governing what will happen while the parties are separated, perhaps covering issues such as child custody and support, and spousal support (alimony).
Typically, a court will have the power to resolve as part of a "legal separation" any and all issues that would normally be resolved in a divorce. The exception is that when the final order is entered by the court, the parties remain married.
Additionally, most jurisdictions require a waiting or "cooling off" period before a court will issue a divorce judgment, but there is not ordinarily a waiting period before a court may issue an order of "legal separation" or "separate maintenance".
It is possible for a married couple to become legally separated without going to court, on the basis of a mutual understanding or even without a written agreement.
One could define legal separation as an alternative for married couples who can't continue a life together but want something more legally binding than simply living apart and aren't yet prepared to file for divorce.
Though in the eyes of the law a couple is still considered to be married, legal separation works to more clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each spouse. Since these decisions are documented and approved by a judge by way of a court order, they are legally enforceable.
If a legal separation should progress to divorce, how you divide your assets now will most likely be how they remain in a divorce case - So file a legal separation carefully!
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