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Why bother with a legal separation?

In this day and age of no-fault divorce, why would anyone bother with a legal separation? There are a number of different reasons.

One of the most common reasons people file for a legal separation is that they don't meet the statutory requirements for a divorce. In Nebraska, you must have resided in the state for at least one year before filing for a divorce. A legal separation can provide many of the same benefits of divorce and resolve numerous complications in the meantime.

While you are waiting for the statutory time limit to pass, you and your spouse can work on a lot of the details that might otherwise hold up a divorce. While a legal separation doesn't dissolve the marital bond, it does allow the court to formally divide your assets and debts, award alimony, establish child support payments and decide any issues regarding the physical and legal custody of the children.

It also has an additional benefit: whatever assets and income each party gains after the legal separation are his or hers alone -- and so are any debts.

There are other significant reasons that someone may even opt for a long-term legal separation over an actual divorce:

-- Some religions discourage or prohibit divorces except under very limited circumstances, so a legal separation can allow a couple to go their own ways without violating their religious beliefs.

-- If one spouse has serious health problems, it can allow that person to remain on the other spouse's insurance plan.

-- A legal separation may allow one spouse the additional time in the marriage to qualify for certain spousal benefits through the military or Social Security that are only available if the marriage was of a certain duration.

It's important to remember that you cannot legally remarry if you have a legal separation and not a divorce. While that may not be an issue currently, it could become an issue in the future.

There are also potential issues that could arise if a woman who is legally separated but not divorced becomes pregnant. If her spouse is male, he may have to provide evidence to the court that he is not the actual father in order to avoid a support obligation for that child.

For help deciding if a legal separation is right for you or not, consider consulting a family law attorney today.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Separation," accessed Jan. 22, 2017

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