What Is The Legal Definition Of “Marital Separation?”

What happens when a married couple decides to “separate” instead of divorcing immediately? Marital separation and divorce are different, according to the law. But it might mean something different to the couple in question than it would in a court of law — but then again it might not. Many couples realize that divorce is inevitable but choose to separate to make the court process easier.

Most family attorneys specialize in more specific practice areas like adoption or divorce. According to the law, “divorce” is defined as the dissolution of a marriage. That means that both spouses are free to remarry once a judge has declared a divorce final. Legal divorce is called “dissolution of marriage” or “absolute divorce” or “total divorce” or even “divorce from the bond(s) of matrimony.” 

Divorce is often a complicated process. It becomes more difficult the longer the marriage continues. This is because married couples are more likely to have shared property or children. Property must be divided equitably — which can be different than a 50/50 split — and even children must be assigned to one parent or the other. This is why most divorces require legal counsel. Couples rarely want to risk judicial decree when it comes to children or property, which is why the majority stay out of court.

Marital separation is different from divorce. If you have more specific questions, a legal website can provide you with contact information for a family lawyer.

According to the law, “marital separation” is defined as living apart either under judicial decree or by mutual understanding. A couple cannot be legally separated when living under the same roof! 

A legal separation by judicial decree will often involve finances, child custody, etc. These will include new legal obligations that cannot be ignored. Often, the law becomes involved due to differences of opinion involving religion or finances. Children complicate the matter further. Don’t forget: many couples consider themselves “separated” even when the courts are not involved in personal matters. This is not a “legal” separation and will have little bearing on potential divorce proceedings later. 

What are the major consequences of legal separation? First and foremost, the couple might still share a joint bank account — but once legally separated in a court of law, neither spouse is allowed to freely spend. The judge will decide how and why money can be withdrawn to meet financial obligations. Also, shared assets might be governed by the law as well. A shared vehicle might mean the judge decides who gets to use it and why. 

Another important facet of the law that must be considered is that many states require a period of separation before a judge is allowed to dissolve a marriage.

It is important to discuss options with legal counsel when deciding whether or not to separate prior to divorce. An individual might also seek counsel from other sources such as the church.