• Separation as an Alternative to Divorce
  • May 6, 2003
  • Law Firm: Cooper & Smith - New Providence Office
  • In states that recognize legal separations, a husband or wife can petition the court to issue a decree that confers the rights and obligations of divorced persons without actually divorcing.

    While divorce legally ends a marriage, legal separation merely splits the relationship, leaving the marital status intact. As with divorce, legal separation requires that:

    • A spouse files a petition with the court
    • The court enters a judgment
    • The state and county residency requirements are satisfied

    A spouse petitioning for legal separation may also seek division of the marital assets, as well as alimony and child support payments labeled as "separate maintenance," in legal separation cases.

    Why Legal Separation?
    Several reasons why a couple may prefer legal separation over divorce may be:

    • To avoid the perceived negative connotation associated with divorce
    • To leave open possible future reconciliation
    • Divorce may be contrary to the couple's religious beliefs
    • For some, staying married may offer tax or other financial advantages
    • To perpetuate inheritance rights

    By utilizing a separation agreement, a couple can achieve substantially similar objectives through an informal separation.