When deciding whether or not to live apart from your spouse, divorce is not the only legal option. While a divorce is a court judgment that ends a marriage, an alternative called a legal separation is also possible. This option allows couples to live apart yet remain married for the best interests of their children or other personal, financial, or religious reasons. Below is some basic information to understand the differences between divorce and legal separation. This article also aims to guide you, whether you decide to file a separation agreement or go through divorce proceedings.

Divorce: Termination of Marriage

Divorce Filings Require A Legal ReasonBefore the court approves your request for a divorce, you must have a valid ground for terminating your marriage. Although the most common reason is not getting along with your partner and not wanting to be married anymore, any other reason you can provide that fits your situation will be considered in court. A no-fault divorce occurs when the marriage is deemed broken beyond repair but neither of the parties is blaming the other side.

No-Fault Divorce. Arizona is a no-fault divorce state which means that none of the parties are required to prove the fault of the other as long as one side asserts that the broken marital relationship is irreconcilable or irretrievable. Courts will also look at other issues such as child custody, parenting, child support, spousal support, or division of property before finalizing the divorce. If you want to understand more about no-fault divorce cases, contact an Arizona family law attorney to review your case.

When deciding to enter a divorce agreement, there are numerous issues you should consider, including, but not limited to the custody of children, child support, parenting time, visitation, asset divisions, alimony, division of personal property (including the car or furniture), real property division (such as the house and other real estates), living arrangements, name changes (such as when you decide to take back your maiden name), debt divisions (who gets to pay outstanding credit card bills, medical debts, or student loans) or even order of protection when there are cases of abuse.

If there are marital disagreements, experienced family law attorneys can help handle disputes on matters such as property division, child custody, or spousal support, among other things. They will help formulate your case and present evidence in court to convince the judge to decide in your favor. Ultimately, judges decide on issues that cannot be resolved by the agreement of both parties.

Legal Separation: Married but Living Apart

While a judgment of divorce permanently ends the marriage, a legal separation will not end marriages. The latter allows a couple to live in separate residences and to tackle issues such as custody, visitations, or child support payments.

You and your wife or husband can write a separation agreement that discusses how you will deal with kids, asset division, home living, and other issues. The agreement will only be valid if it bears the signature of both married spouses. Neither party can be forced to sign this agreement, and if you are, you should contact the nearest family law attorney in Arizona.

If you did sign a document under duress, the judge may rule it as “unfair” under the circumstances that you missed an opportunity to discuss the decision with your lawyer or that there was intimidation involved.

Rather than writing your separation papers, it is better to have an attorney draft it for you to make sure that you do not miss out on certain matters such as taxes or child education.

Legal Documents In Divorces or Separations

Depending on which option you choose–whether it be a no-fault divorce, divorce where a party is at-fault, legal separation, separation support–you will need to fill out a different set of papers in court. Take note that some states may not have the option you chose, such as legal separations. Instead, the state legalizes living apart from your husband or wife even without court permission. As such, it is important to consult with a local family law attorney first before filing petitions.

Separation Agreement. In Arizona, if you chose the spouse separation route, you will need to have a legal contract called a separation agreement. This document should be signed and agreed upon by both parties and governs how properties or debts will be handled, as well as support. Under separation agreements, married couples remain married but are allowed to live in separate homes.

Divorce Judgment. Contrary to divorce judgments, this is a contract and not a court order. As such, it is not uncommon to have problems with enforcing the terms of the agreement in which case you may file a complaint with the court and ask the judge to order the other party to comply.

If you plan on filing a divorce or separation with your current spouse, it will be in your best interest to speak with an attorney first for advice to make sure you understand the differences between divorces, separate supports, or supports. While there will be filing fees involved, some petitioners can have fees waived by filing an affidavit of indigency. Instead of paying yourself to serve the court papers, the state will pay for your needs.

Whatever you decide, both divorce or signing a separation agreement are big decisions. Don’t do it impulsively. Gather as much information as possible, talk to your friends, and seek legal advice. You can also visit the family court in your jurisdiction to know how family court proceedings go. For a no-hassle option, you can also do FREE consultations with The Dodds Law family law attorneys.