Why Legal Separation may sometimes be better than Divorce
When you are not sure what you want to do, taking a break from your marriage rather than filing for divorce may be a less intimidating option. Here is more on why legal separation may sometimes be better than divorce:
Wisconsin Legal Separation
In Wisconsin, a couple or individual can file for a formal legal separation. Wisconsin law provides that a court can decide issues regarding property division, child custody and placement, and spousal maintenance as well as other matters during a legal separation. Even though all of these same issues can be decided during divorce, the couple will still be legally married during a legal separation.
The Benefits of Legal Separation
Although similar results can be achieved during a divorce, there are benefits to legal separation in some situations.
- Health Insurance: A significant benefit that comes with a legal separation is when one spouse is covered under the other’s health insurance. Divorce automatically drops a spouse's coverage while, depending on the insurance policy, a legal separation may allow the dependent spouse to remain insured. Out-of-pocket health insurance has become cost-prohibitive for many people, and this may be the only means for a divorcing spouse to maintain affordable coverage.
- Revocation of Provisions in Favor of Former Spouse: Wisconsin law states explicitly that specific legal provisions will no longer apply to a former spouse. For example, a power of attorney or another document that grants fiduciary authority to a person's ex-husband or wife will not be valid once the two divorce. Additionally, the former couple's property as "joint tenants with the right of survivorship or as survivorship marital property transforms the interests of the decedent and former spouse into tenancies in common." A legal separation would not implicate this law and would allow the spouses to maintain these legal positions.
- Religious or Moral Reasons: If one or both partners holds religious beliefs that do not condone divorce, legal separation provides a means for the couple to live separately without violating the tenants of their faith. Likewise, one or both people may have specific moral objections to divorce or wish to remain married for personal reasons. Whatever the case may be, legal separation can help ensure that a couple has a practical way to live apart while remaining legally married.
- Possibility of Reconciliation: When couples legally separate, they can protect their interests, decide all of the major issues between them, and leave room for reconciliation. If they go to counseling and decide that they want to revert to their married status, they can legally suspend their proceedings to effect a reconciliation.
- If You Divorce, Most Issues May Already Have Been Decided: If, after being apart, the couple determines that divorce is in their best interests, after one year of living apart, either party may petition to convert the case to divorce. At that point, the couple may have already decided most if not all of the issues.
Depending on your circumstances, a legal separation may be a good option. The best way to learn more about the alternatives for your particular situation is by meeting with an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney.
Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience helping clients understand their options during separation and divorce. Contact us today to take a “first look” at your situation.