When your marriage is on the rocks, but divorce isn’t an option, you may wonder what you can do. In the state of Alabama, you may also petition the courts to be legally separated from your spouse.
There are many reasons that a couple may choose to separate but not end their marriage immediately. Some of these reasons may include religious beliefs, financial reasons, to make future divorce proceedings move quicker, or even if the couple isn’t positive that they want to split permanently.
Below, we will discuss the differences between a legal separation and a divorce in the state of Alabama. Upon reading this article, you will be able to make an educated decision on the best path to take for you and your family.
Legal Separation vs. Divorce
You may be wondering what the difference is between a legal separation and a divorce. Let’s get into a little more detail.
Divorce is a process that legally ends a marriage. During the process, the courts will decide:
- The division of marital property
- Custody and child support
- Spousal support (if applicable)
At the end of the divorce proceedings, the courts will declare the marriage dissolved, and either party can remarry after a short waiting period.
Although the courts will address the same legal issues as a divorce, the couple is still legally married at the end of the legal separation process. The couple may be living separately. However, if either party wants to remarry, they must request the courts to convert the separation case into a divorce.
Why Couples Would Choose Legal Separation Over Divorce
Everyone knows that relationships can be tricky. And it’s not always apparent why a couple would choose to be legally separated instead of becoming divorced, but here are a few common reasons why they may make this decision:
- They may want to work towards a reconciliation
- To avoid the stigma of being divorced
- Religious, social, or personal objections to being divorced
- Monetary issues
- The couple is going to live apart but wants a written agreement regarding custody and child support
What Does Legal Separation Mean?
To be legally separated in Alabama, you must have a court order. To qualify for a legal separation, one of the parties will need to file a request that the court intervene. The request will need to show that at least one spouse has been a state resident for at least six months and that at least one spouse wants to live apart from the other.
Although a legal separation isn’t ending the marriage, the court takes these cases very seriously. You will need to provide the court with a legal reason for your request.
You need to convince the court that your marriage has suffered a breakdown that it cannot recover from or that the couple is incompatible. And if you have children, you must also provide the court with how you plan on handling custody, visitation, and support.
If you are legally separated, you can live apart from each other, spend your money as you wish, and even get into a new relationship. However, if either party earns money or obtains property after the separation, that is considered separate property should you choose to proceed to a divorce. And, if you decide to remarry, you will need to ask the court to convert the separation into a divorce to terminate the marriage legally.
Make Sure to Have a Separation Agreement
If you are considering a separation without a trial, you need to be sure to have a separation agreement. While you and your spouse may verbally agree on terms, neither side can enforce that agreement with the Court’s contempt powers unless it is in writing, has been previously submitted to the Court, and incorporated in the Court’s Order.
Also, if there is no written agreement, a trial will be necessary in order to become legally separated. While you may feel uncomfortable asking your spouse for a written agreement, if you ask the court for a legal separation without a trial, you’ll need a written separation agreement.
Let the Expert Attorneys at Brackin & Johnson Help You Through the Legal Separation Process
Even if you have an amicable split from your spouse, having an attorney draft a separation agreement for you will benefit you. You should then allow your spouse to have the agreement reviewed by their attorney as well.
While you can draft the document yourself, it is a legal, binding contract after the judge signs the agreement. Therefore, if you inadvertently make a mistake, you will have to live with it or ask for a modification at a later date. You can avoid this by hiring an experienced family law attorney.
For over 40 years, the expert attorneys at Brackin & Johnson have helped clients achieve their goals by providing exceptional service tailored to each client’s needs. We value our role as your legal counsel, and we will take the time to make sure you understand what is going on with your case and how the law may affect your case.
Contact Brackin & Johnson today and let us help you through this time.