Legal Separation vs. Divorce: Which option is right for you?

Clients contemplating divorce often have questions about legal separation.  Typically, they want to know how legal separation differs from divorce, and which option is best for them.  What should you know about the two?

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Legal separation is, like a divorce proceeding, a legal proceeding that formally separates you from your spouse. To grant a legal separation, an Indiana Court must find that conditions in the marriage are currently so intolerable that the couple cannot live together, but the marriage itself should nevertheless be maintained. A legal separation is not required before filing for divorce in Indiana.

During a legal separation, you may reach an agreement or obtain court orders that set forth what both spouses will do during the period of legal separation, addressing matters such as custody, parenting time, child support, and financial issues related to the marriage.  Any orders or agreements entered during a legal separation end when the legal separation ends.  A legal separation can last up to one year.  After one year, you will need to decide if you want to get a divorce or reconcile with your spouse.  If you choose to proceed with divorce proceedings, your legal-separation case can be converted to a divorce proceeding.

By contrast, divorce proceedings, once complete, permanently terminate your marriage, and permanently divide your marital property.  During a divorce, you may also reach an agreement or obtain court orders regarding child-related issues, although those may be modified in the future. Divorce proceedings may, and often do, last more than one year.  If one spouse initiates divorce proceedings, the other spouse may not then petition the Court for legal separation.

Legal separation may be right for couples who are not certain they want to end the marriage, but nonetheless desire a trial separation.  The attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer, P.C., are available to speak to you about which option is right for you. Call us at (317) 580-9295; your future is our concern.

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