Couples considering divorce in Arizona have another option: legal separation. Before deciding on how to end your marriage, it is wise to consult with an experienced divorce and legal separation lawyer.
At Cohen Family Law, we regularly advise clients about divorce, legal separation, and related matters such as child custody, child support, and the division of property. We know that a marital breakup can be an emotional and financial burden and will help to lift that burden by providing you with compassionate, efficient representation.
Whether you are considering divorce or legal separation, our legal team will stand by you every step of the way and work to protect your interests. Contact our Phoenix office today to schedule a consultation.
What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?
Legal separation is similar to divorce in many ways, but there is a difference. The main difference is that a legal separation does not terminate the marriage while a divorce is permanent. In a legal separation, the spouses remain married and do not have the right to remarry. In a divorce, the marriage is legally terminated, and each spouse is free to remarry.
If a legally separated couple reconciles, a motion can be filed with the court to vacate the separation order. If they eventually decide to divorce, the legal separation order will be incorporated into the divorce decree. In both, the court will issue orders about the division of the property and debts, child custody, and support.
Key Reasons To Choose a Legal Separation Instead of a Divorce
There are several reasons a married couple would consider legal separation, including:
- Divorce is against their religious beliefs
- They want to continue to have an opportunity to resolve their marital issues
- They want the tax benefits of being a married couple
Depending on the circumstances, one spouse may also want to retain eligibility for the other spouse’s health insurance, pensions, and Social Security benefits. At times, a couple chooses legal separation as a trial run for a divorce, giving them time to plan for this difficult family transition. Regardless of the reason, trust Cohen Family Law to offer you compassion, knowledge, and dependable service.
Who can obtain a legal separation in Arizona?
A petition for legal separation (with or without children) can be filed if you have been a state resident for at least 90 days prior to filing. For the court to grant a separation, you must be able to demonstrate:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken
- One spouse wants to live separate and apart
- The other spouse does not object to the separation
In any event, a legal separation is a formal court proceeding that requires the advice and counsel of an experienced divorce attorney.
Child Custody in a Legal Separation
Child custody is handled in the same manner in a legal separation as it is in a divorce. The spouses must agree to a parenting plan that establishes parenting time and legal decision-making for the children before the court will grant a legal separation.
If the parents cannot agree to a plan, the court will make a determination based on the best interests of the children. Factors involved in child custody determinations include:
- The relationship between the child and each parent
- How the child relates to his or her siblings
- The child’s adjustment to the home, community, and school
- Which parent is likely to encourage frequent and ongoing contact with the other parent
- Whether child abuse or domestic violence has occurred
- The physical and emotional well-being of everyone involved
- The child’s wishes if he or she is old enough and sufficiently mature
Our legal team will work closely with you to craft a parenting plan that meets the court’s requirements and allows you to obtain a legal separation.
Child Support in a Legal Separation
Under Arizona law, all parents have a legal obligation to provide reasonable support for their children. Child support in a legal separation is calculated using Arizona child support guidelines. The guidelines consider factors such as:
- The income of each spouse
- The needs of the child
- The amount of parenting time each parent has with the child
The Arizona Judicial Branch provides a child support calculator to help you estimate the amount of child support you can expect to pay or receive in a legal separation.
Community Property Division in a Legal Separation
The division of marital property in a legal separation is the same as divorce. The court will divide the property acquired during the marriage (community property ) in a way that is equitable to both parties (not necessarily equally) and assign each spouse’s sole and separate property to that spouse.
Divorce or Legal Separation: Which option is right for you?
Ultimately, legal separation is a choice in Arizona. Depending upon religious, financial, and personal factors, divorce may not be the best option for you and your spouse. At Cohen Family Law, we regularly help clients navigate the legal separation process. We are highly experienced in negotiating and preparing separation agreements and will work to make sure your interests are protected. Contact our office today to speak with an experienced Arizona divorce and legal separation attorney.