When deciding whether and how to end a marriage, it’s important to first understand all the options available to you and your spouse. Although divorce may be the right path for some couples, not every couple is ready for this irreversible step. In such cases, a legal separation might be preferable.
What Is a Legal Separation?
Divorce and legal separation offer similar legal and financial protections. As with divorce, a legally recognized separation in Ohio allows the court to order:
- Property division
- Spousal support or alimony
- Payment of debts
- Parental rights and responsibilities, including parenting time and child support
Once a legal separation is granted, the couple is obliged to comply with the court’s orders in these matters, just as they would be if they had instead filed for divorce. You should, therefore, seek the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney to ensure that your interests are represented and that the agreement deciding the terms of your legal separation is fair.
However, a legal separation is different from a divorce in one crucial way. Whereas a divorce legally and permanently terminates a marriage, a legal separation allows the couple to remain legally married while living physically and financially separate lives. And – because a legally separated couple are still legally married – they cannot remarry.
Why Pursue a Legal Separation?
There are several reasons why a couple might choose to pursue a legal separation rather than seek a termination of their marriage through dissolution or divorce, including:
- Religious reasons
- Concerns about how a permanent termination of their marriage might impact their children
- Concerns about healthcare coverage
- Tax incentives
- Retirement benefits
Legal separation can also be a temporary measure designed to allow a couple legal and financial protections during a separation while they attempt to reconcile. In other words, a legal separation can last for as long as you and your spouse choose. If, for instance, you and your spouse reconcile, your attorney can file a Motion to Vacate Order of Legal Separation. Alternatively, if you and your spouse decide at any point that you’d like to terminate your marriage, your separation agreement can form the basis for your divorce agreement. It is also entirely possible for a legal separation to remain a permanent state as long as both spouses remain in agreement.
Filing for Legal Separation in Ohio
In Ohio, filing for legal separation is a separate – though similar – action than filing to obtain a divorce. Although, as mentioned, a separation agreement can form the basis for a divorce agreement, a couple is not required to file for legal separation prior to a divorce proceeding.
It is important to be aware, however, that both parties must agree to a legal separation. If, for instance, one spouse files a complaint for legal separation, the other spouse then has an opportunity to either agree to the legal separation or to instead file a counterclaim for divorce.
Furthermore, in order to file for divorce in Ohio, you need to have lived in Ohio for at least 6 months, but that is not the case for legal separation. However, you do need to provide a valid reason for the legal separation to the court. The court will accept any of the grounds listed in Ohio Revised Code Section 3105.17, including:
- Extreme cruelty
- Gross neglect of duty
- Habitual drunkenness
- Imprisonment of your spouse in a state or federal institution
How Crossman & McNamee, LLC Can Help
Whether you already know that you want a legal separation from your spouse or you’re still uncertain if divorce or legal separation is the correct path, you will benefit from having the counsel of a compassionate and knowledgeable attorney. As part of either process, you will need to negotiate the separation of your financial and legal ties, including spousal maintenance, child custody, child support, and the division of all of your assets and debts. Conversations like these can be difficult even in the best of circumstances, and it is in your best interests to consult an attorney to help guide you through your legal separation.
This is especially true if there are children involved. Our experienced attorneys know the laws that govern the distribution of child custody and child support in Ohio and can help advocate for a parenting agreement that is in the best interests of your child. They can also ensure that you either receive or pay a fair and reasonable amount of child support.
At Crossman & McNamee, LLC, we understand that legally separating from your spouse can be a difficult and emotionally intense process. We are prepared to advocate for you during this critical moment so that the decisions you make today will ensure the security of your long-term future.
If you are considering a legal separation in Ohio, contact us today at (937) 468-3796 to schedule a consultation.