Many people who live apart from their spouse say they are “separated” but what does that mean? Most of the time, being “separated” has no legal meaning.
To be “legally separated” means that you have a court order spelling out the terms of a separation. In a legal separation action, the parties divide up their property, set a parenting plan, and deal with issues of child support and alimony just like in a divorce. The difference is, when the lawsuit is over the parties are still married.
So why not just get a divorce? Some people choose to legally separate instead of divorce for religious reasons. A separation lets couples live separate financial lives. For example, a spouse can protect themselves from their partner running up marital debt, even though they are still married. A separation can allow a sick or disabled spouse to keep his or her health insurance provided by the other spouse while still enjoying the other benefits of divorce.
True legal separations are rare but an experienced family law attorney can walk you through the process and decide if one is right for you.