Transitioning from Separation to Divorce
Most individuals are unaware of the different steps every couple goes through in the process of obtaining a divorce. Celebrity divorces that are commonly popularized on television are not accurate depictions of the actual process. Usually, the chaos surrounding these cases is sensationalized in an effort to garner publicity.
That being said, the actual process of obtaining a divorce is a far less chaotic one than the media often claims. There are some steps that couples typically take before they obtain a divorce. Most frequently, couples choose to file for a legal separation before they proceed with a divorce.
These are matters of the heart. They are not meant to follow a set formula. Some couples reconcile with each other following the separation; others move forward with the divorce; yet others remain separated but legally married. Some couples want to reconcile after a period of separation, and so they do. Others may find that reconciliation is unlikely. Of these, some may begin divorce proceedings; others may choose to remain married but separated because of certain benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, personal reasons, religious reasons, or simply for the sake of their children. In the following sections, you will learn about how the process of divorce seamlessly follows the process of separation, should a couple choose it.
When Your Separation Agreement Is Legally Binding
Typically, couples who no longer want to live with each other opt for a legal separation first. A separation is rather similar to a divorce, in that you and your spouse will have to negotiate child custody, a parenting schedule, child support, spousal maintenance and the division of marital property. There are plenty reasons why couples might choose to legally separate instead of filing for divorce. Religious reasons that oppose divorce, hope for reconciliation after time spent apart, healthcare, insurance and tax benefits, ineligibility to file for divorce under residency requirements of the state.
The process of acquiring a legal separation can also appear to be less stressful for most people. However, it is important to understand that a separation is not legally binding till such time that the couple have taken certain steps.
In order for a separation agreement to be legally binding, it has to be signed by both parties. Both of their signatures have to be notarized and then the agreement has to be filed with the County Clerk’s office. However, merely filing the agreement does not mean that you are both legally separated. It does not make the agreement legally binding. What makes it legally binding is when both parties have signed the agreement, and when this document has been notarized.
How Long You Have to Wait to Get Divorced After Separation
The norm with most couples is to wait a period of time after the separation before proceeding with the divorce. However, if you are legally separated from your spouse, you can commence the divorce process right way.
Technically however, if your legal separation is now binding, you may move forward toward a divorce immediately. Conversely, like a lot of other couples, you may choose to never actually get a divorce. Every case is different. Every couple is different. The reasons for filing for a legal separation and/or a divorce vary from couple to couple. And each of them may have a variety of objectives.
Rather often, couples will decide not to get divorced because one spouse is receiving a benefit of some sort under the other spouse’s plan. These benefits include health, insurance, tax and pensions, to name a few. Once a divorce is final, those benefits are no longer available, so these couples may remain married forever.