Have you and your spouse separated but aren’t ready for divorce? Has your spouse moved out and is no longer providing for your children but you hope to reconcile? Indiana allows for married couples to file for a legal separation, instead of a dissolution, if the couple wants to remain married while living separately.
A legal separation is a maximum of a one-year period where the court will make orders on things like child support, child custody, payment of marital debts, and use and possession of marital assets without the parties having to file for divorce. At the conclusion of the one-year period, the legal separation is dismissed if the action has not been converted to a divorce, and the parties return to their marriage with no involvement of the court. If at any time during the legal separation a party files for dissolution, the legal separation is converted into a dissolution proceeding.
A court can grant a legal separation if it finds that it is currently intolerable for both parties to live together but the marriage should be maintained. Normally, legal separations are filed when parties want to separate while they attempt to reconcile or decide whether they want to pursue a divorce. The parties retain their legal status of married, but have the protection of the court through provisional orders.
A married couple who wishes to separate does not have to file for legal separation. Married couples are entitled to live apart at any time, and it won’t affect their status of married. However, as long as a couple is married, either party can act in the name of the marriage and incur debts of the marriage. Filing for legal separation can protect the parties from being bound by new debts incurred by an individual spouse after the date of separation.
Legal separations do not have to be contested, or fought over, just like a dissolution doesn’t have to end in a legal battle. A couple can make agreements as to how they are going to conduct themselves during the legal separation and submit that agreement to the court for approval. This provides court protection to the couple and allows them the space and time to try to reconcile their marriage, if that is what they wish to do.
Are you facing the difficult decision of whether you should file for legal separation to have financial protection or ensure your spouse provides support for your children? Do you need to weigh the pros and cons of filing for a legal separation compared to a dissolution? Do you currently have a legal separation and need to navigate converting the action to a dissolution? The attorneys at Slotegraaf Niehoff, P.C. are experienced in helping clients make these decisions and navigate the many issues that arise in legal separations and dissolutions.