Legal Separation or Divorce – What is Best for Me?

Did you know under Utah law you can file for a legal separation rather than an actual divorce?  Legal separations are different from divorce in that you remain married to your spouse.  Essentially, you will live apart from your spouse but will remain married under Utah law.  In Utah, legal separations also in effect for twelve (12) months or one (1) year from the date of your hearing or until one spouse files for divorce, the couple decides to get back together or the case is dismissed.
In order to be legally separated, you must be legally married to your spouse.  Too, both you and your spouse must have been residents in the State of Utah for at least ninety (90) days prior to petitioning for a legal separation.  While this process may not be as involved as a full divorce, you still need the guidance and expertise of an experienced lawyer.  To start the process of a legal separation you will need to file a Petition for Temporary Separation and Motion for Temporary Order.
The rights and duties of legally separated spouses have been established under Utah law including child support; child custody; division of debt; alimony and other matters.  Are you eligible to file for legal separation?  This is dependent on different factors including:  Has your spouse or significant other who provides financial support neglected you or refused to participate in the care of the family?  Have you been abandoned absent a legitimate reason? Your spouse chooses to live separately from you absent any fault on their part.
Post issues after filing for legal separation may be a little complicated as you will remain married to your spouse.  The court will Order on issues relating to child support, custody, and alimony but you will be looked at, legally, as a couple.  There are benefits and reasons why you may want to consider a legal separation over a divorce.  Many couples choose legal separation for religious reasons as divorce can be discouraged or culturally disapprove of.  Medical or health insurance may also be a determining factor.  Under most medical insurance plans you are not able to maintain insurance for your spouse if you are divorced.  Perhaps your spouse has a significant health condition they must maintain insurance for.  Citizenship may also be an issue.  Couples may choose legal separation rather than divorce if a spouse is not a legal citizen and needs additional time in order to obtain citizenship.  Another possible reason to consider legal separation is to maintain military benefits for your spouse.  A legal separation may also establish a deadline for when real property or income that is accumulated is considered marital or separate property.  One thing to consider with legal separation is that it will not allow you to remarry.  In order to remarry, you must be legally divorced.  A legal separation will not provide you with a decree of divorce and you will be considered married to your spouse.
It is important to consider all aspects and ramifications of filing for divorce or legal separation.  Every case is unique and has specific details that must be considered.  Consequently, it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer who is skilled in this area of law to properly advise you of your rights, help you look at the consequences of your decisions, and make sure your paperwork is filed appropriately.  We welcome you to contact our office to meet with one of our skilled professionals and help make the right decision for you and your family.

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