Coming to a decision about whether to divorce or stay together is not something most people take lightly. In some situations, couples take years before reaching their final conclusion.
There is nothing wrong with not wanting to rush into anything. However, long-term separations absent legal protections could end up being detrimental to one or more of those involved.
Legal separations in Indiana, which can last up to one year, aren’t required in order to get a divorce. However, they can be a (reversible) step in that direction. Even if you are not sold on the idea of ending the union altogether, it’s worthwhile for both parties to have a clear idea of how you intend to handle child custody, child support, parenting time, spousal maintenance and temporary division of property.
You can’t file for a legal separation if you already have a pending action for dissolution of marriage, but at any time, the couple can either petition the court to dismiss the separation agreement or convert it into a dissolution of marriage. In any case, both parties agree to live separately, though they remain legally married.
A legal separation goes beyond a cooling off period. It’s more than needing a few weeks to sort through whatever problems you may be enduring as a couple. It’s more than a weekend at a nearby hotel or with relatives. This is an agreement that you might seek if one or both of you is having serious doubts about the future of your marriage and needs real time to work through those issues.
While its understandable that many couples don’t immediately seek to make that kind of arrangement formal (even if only temporarily), failure to draw up a legal separation agreement can leave you and your children in a precarious position, emotionally as well as financially.
Consider that your kids are going to need stability during this time. They need to know what to expect as you and your spouse navigate the question of “What’s next?” Having an established routine so that the child knows when to expect to see mom or dad and for how long can make the transition to whatever is next that much smoother.
Plus, you both need to protect yourselves financially. Because you are still married, both of you are legally allowed access to whatever joint property you share. However, that has the potential to lead to conflict. Spelling out all the terms ahead of time makes it that much clearer.
Same goes with bill paying. Each couple has a different way of managing finances. It could be that the current arrangement is quite equitable and both parties simply continue to pay on the bills they were already footing before.
However, if one party moves out, he or she may have less disposable income to cover certain expenses. Working out a legal arrangement will help ensure neither goes into any serious debt during this time.
Also, if one spouse earns significantly less than another, a legal separation agreement can allow for temporary spousal and child support payments so that he or she is not unfairly burdened during this time.
Failure to file a legal separation agreement has the potential to hurt you in the following ways:
- You won’t have any control over how your spouse is managing certain marital assets;
- You may be providing an opportunity for your spouse to hide marital assets;
- If your spouse’s circumstances do change between now and when you file for divorce, your eventual settlement could end up being a lot less;
- You risk your spouse moving out of the state or perhaps out of the country, where divorce and child custody procedures may vary significantly – perhaps to your disadvantage;
- If your spouse gets into legal trouble with finances, you will end up being held liable as well.
A legal separation offers protection. To learn more, call us today.
Indiana Family Law Attorney Burton A. Padove handles divorce and child custody matters throughout northern Indiana, including Gary, Hammond and Calumet City. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.
Putting Off Divorce? Ten Ways Long-term Separations Can Do Women More Harm Than Good, Oct. 3, 2013, By Jeff Landers, Forbes.com
More Blog Entries:
Indiana Divorce Mistakes That Can Impact Your Retirement, Sept. 8, 2013, Indiana Legal Separation Lawyer Blog