If you and your spouse are struggling in your marriage, you have likely spent a great deal of time and emotional energy trying to figure out the best way forward. Sometimes, it is healthiest for spouses to make a clean break. Other times, it is healthiest to take some space so that each spouse can evaluate their options with a clear mind.
If you feel that trying to work on your issues with your spouse while cohabitating is no longer in your best interests, you may be weighing the pros and cons associated with divorce, legal separation, and informal separation. Know that there is no single “right” way to navigate the challenges that you’re currently facing. After carefully considering the virtues and potential drawbacks associated with each approach, you’ll need to simply do what is healthiest for you.
If Separation Is a Better Choice
As an experienced divorce lawyer – including those who practice at Felt Family Law & Mediation – can confirm, if you’re thinking about separating from your spouse, you’ll take far fewer legal and financial risks if you formalize that separation.
Legal separation functions – from legal and financial standpoints – like divorce does. Although, in the eyes of the law, a couple remains married, they are also permitted access to specific legal and financial protections that are not enforceable in an informal separation scenario.
For example, say that you and your spouse have minor children. If you separate informally, you may agree to a specific parenting time schedule. If your spouse starts to violate your agreement, you’ll have no way to enforce your rights if the court hasn’t ordered that a temporary custody order be put into place. Additionally, your spouse could turn around and insist that you, for example, simply didn’t want to spend time with your kids and then use evidence of your lack of parenting time during your informal separation as a means of securing more parenting time if and when you do divorce.
This is just one example of why, if you believe that separation is the best way forward, you’ll want to formalize your child custody, child support, and asset division arrangements with the court. Between spouses who misuse marital assets to spouses who manipulate child custody arrangements, there are all the potentially life-altering reasons in the world to make sure that you are protected during this time.
If Divorce Is a Better Choice
If you know in your gut that a clean break would be healthier for you, there is no shame in filing for divorce instead of pursuing a legal separation first. Only you know the state of your marriage and what arrangement would allow you and your spouse the best possible opportunity at living healthy lives moving forward.
In the event that you’re likely going to be divorcing soon, speak with a family law practitioner sooner rather than later. The choices that you make now could ultimately affect the outcome of your case, so it is important to be as proactive as you can.