Divorce is one of the most emotionally draining and complicated challenges that many will face, so it makes sense that some want to avoid it if possible. A viable alternative is separation. A separation can come in the form of an informal cooling off period where the couple lives apart, or it could be a more formal decision involving legal separation or a marital separation agreement.
An informal arrangement may be best for circumstances where the couple needs a break to work through some issues to make the marriage more viable as a life-long partnership. If the differences are unlikely to be resolved, yet divorce still does not seem like a desirable option, a more formal arrangement may make sense. These agreements can be as comprehensive as a divorce by addressing such crucial issues as parenting plan, maintenance, control of marital assets and other financial arrangements.
The advantages of separation
Couples choose separation for a variety of reasons. These include:
- Insurance and other benefits: Unlike divorce, a separated spouse still is covered on a health insurance policy and is able to enjoy other benefits, although this should all be put in a formal agreement.
- Financial benefits: The tax laws changed in 2018, which means spousal maintenance or alimony is no longer tax deductible for the person paying. Staying married can mean access to retirement accounts, IRAs and social security.
- Religious or cultural reasons: Some couples are not comfortable with violating certain cultural or religious beliefs, such as the sanctity of marriage.
- Family: Children can be deeply affected by a divorce, particularly if there is likely to be a drawn out battle in court.
- Better for reconciliation: As mentioned, a separation can be a chance to reset the relationship. It also gives them a chance to see what life is like without a spouse, which may not be the positive they thought it would be.
Attorneys can help with arrangements
A knowledgeable family law attorney can help draft a marital separation agreement or guide a client through the process of a legal separation. Either way, they can help protect a client's rights as an individual and a parent. Moreover, these agreements can also help outline obligations and expectations for both sides.