Legal Separation in Wisconsin
Is Separation Different from a Divorce?
A legal separation is often used as an alternative to a divorce. While a divorce permanently ends the marital relationship, a legal separation leaves a thread of connection between you and your spouse, and as far as filing taxes your marriage is still considered legally binding. But with legal separation, you can still ask the court to divide property and debts, determine custody and placement, and set up both child support and spousal support as necessary. After legal separation, you and your spouse no longer have a legal obligation to one another, but you may not remarry anyone else.
Couples who choose to legally separate rather than divorce may do so because they want some time apart but aren’t ready to officially divorce. They may also choose to legally separate to allow one spouse to continue receiving insurance benefits and coverage (where eligible), whereas a divorce would most always terminate all eligibility for spousal benefits.
If you and your spouse are thinking of pursuing legal separation but don’t know how to begin, Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is the experienced family law attorney and can help you figure out the best option for you. Give us a call today to get a free 30-minute consultation.
What are the Benefits of Pursuing a Legal Separation?
There could be several benefits to pursuing a legal separation rather than a divorce, including but not limited to:
- 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 separating 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 tenets of their faith. Likewise, one or both people may have specific moral objections to divorce or wish to remain “married” for personal reasons.
- Possibility of Reconciliation: When couples legally separate, they can protect their interests, decide all of the major issues between them, but leave room for reconciliation. If they go to counseling and decide that they want to stay together, they can legally suspend their proceedings to effect a reconciliation. Or, they can vacate their judgment of legal separation and resume their marriage as if the separation did not happen.
- If You Divorce, Most Issues May Already Have Been Decided: Finally, if after physically living apart for 12 months after receiving a judgment of legal separation, the couple determines that divorce is in fact in their best interest, either party may petition to convert the case to divorce, without any further court proceeding. At that point, the couple may have already decided most if not all of their issues, so that conversion is simple.