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How does a legal separation affect property division?

Most couples go straight to divorce when they decide to end their marriages, but there are many benefits that a legal separation can offer. It's important to understand what a legal separation can and cannot do for you so you are as informed as possible moving forward. One of the most misunderstood aspects of separations is how they affect property division.

An important issue to keep in mind is that a legal separation is not what many people refer to as a "trial separation." While a legal separation does not always lead to a divorce and some couples may reconcile, it is not a good idea for a very short-term approach, such as when the couple wants to have a trial separation of just a few weeks or months.

If you don't get a legal separation your property division settlement, should you go on to divorce, could get complicated. In most cases, any property obtained by either party during an informal separation period is still counted as marital property according to the family courts. Generally, this is a bigger issue the longer you have been separated, as you are more likely to have acquired significant assets if you have been separated for years rather than weeks.

A legal separation formally outlines the property division process and what will happen to any property obtained between the separation and actual divorce. A legal separation can also get the process of child support or separation maintenance going, making the financial adjustment to a single life easier. If you have questions about whether a legal separation may be an option for your situation, talk with a family law attorney to get more information.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Separation vs. Divorce," accessed Jan. 12, 2016

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