Legal Separation Attorney
All spouses have their differences, but sometimes these differences create a significant level of discord in the relationship. At this point, it can be beneficial to consider a legal separation.
Cindy L. Kenworthy, P.C. can walk you through this process, making sure you understand all your options. We understand this can be an emotional time for you and your family, and are here to answer any and all questions you have about legal separation as it relates to your specific situation. Contact us online or call us at 317-516-0515 today.
What Is a Legal Separation?
A legal separation is a pause or cooling-off period to allow spouses time to think about the marriage without the other’s influence. If a couple is unsure about their desire to remain married, a legal separation allows them to live apart or simply gain some mental space while considering a momentous decision.
Not all legal separations involve being physically separated. Indiana allows legally separated couples to reside in the same home as long as there are no extenuating circumstances like violence or abuse.
However, many couples choose to live separately during this time and view the separation as merely remaining “married on paper.” A legal separation can be just the break you need to gain clarity and insight into the status of your relationship, which may or may not ultimately result in divorce.
Your legal separation gives you time to consider issues like how to handle your assets, whether there will be a change in property possession, and what’s next in essential matters like child custody and support. Should you pursue a divorce after your legal separation, it’s worthwhile to have these conditions established well ahead of time.
What Is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?
Unlike a divorce, which is permanent, a legal separation is temporary. It lasts a relatively short period of time unless further legal action is taken. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of a legal separation vs divorce, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Legal separation lasts one year, while divorce permanently severs the marriage. Your legal separation expires automatically after its endpoint, so take advantage of this time to think through your marriage and plan for the future.
The separation will end when one of the following things occurs: it expires after one year, the petitioning party dismisses the action and the other side takes no legal action to continue the case, both parties agree to end the separation, or one party files for divorce. Benefits like health insurance and military benefits usually remain in effect during a separation but end after a divorce, so this may be an important consideration if one spouse has a health condition or similar pressing concern.
Only one spouse needs to file for legal separation, but both must abide by it. If you have children, the court may assign temporary orders regarding child custody and other child related matters during the separation period. The court will consider your desires, but the highest priority will be the child’s best interests.
You do not have to file for a legal separation before filing for divorce in Indiana. An experienced legal separation attorney typically handles both types of cases and can advise you on your best options depending on your situation and preferences.
How to File for Legal Separation in Indiana
To file for legal separation in Indiana, contact a qualified legal separation attorney to start the process. Your attorney can help you petition the court for a legal separation and request a hearing be scheduled. Your attorney may also contact your spouse to determine if they will employ an attorney to represent them and if an agreement on the issues is possible.
Your petition for legal separation must include:
- Location of residence
- Length of residency
- Marriage date
- Separation date
- Identifying details of children
- Pregnancy disclosure
- Grounds for separation
- Description of the relief sought
To qualify for a legal separation, at least one spouse must be a resident of Indiana for at least six months and a resident of the filing county for at least three months before filing the petition.
Your legal separation may be denied if the court fails to find:
- Conditions or circumstances of the marriage make it currently intolerable for both parties to continue to live together;
- The marriage should be maintained.
After filing the necessary papers, a hearing, or by written agreement of the parties, a judge will grant or deny the separation. If it is granted, during this time, one or both spouses may request counseling in an effort to improve the conditions of the marriage. A party may also request counseling for their child. However, counseling is not required.
During the separation period, there is usually no requirement for either spouse to meet with the other, reconcile, break up with the other spouse permanently, or move out of the marital home unless the court orders it. In some cases, the court will order a physical separation due to the circumstances, including a child’s safety or best interests.
Benefits of Legal Separation
Legal separation is an attractive option for couples who want to avoid a divorce due to personal preferences or family-related obligations. You may feel that a temporary legal separation meets your needs better than a divorce.
Key benefits of legal separation in Indiana may include:
- A legal separation provides a pause during an unhappy period in a relationship.
- One spouse can indicate their interest in divorcing by initiating a legal separation without provoking the finality of a divorce.
- Your legal separation could allow you the time you need to sort out your assets, childcare, debts, liabilities, and other aspects of your life.
- Legal separation may be a good option for couples dealing with issues like substance abuse, violence, or family discord.
- A couple can usually continue to live together during a legal separation if they so desired.
- During a legal separation, the other spouse may be more open to options like counseling.
- A legal separation, although temporary, is sometimes viewed more positively than a divorce for religious reasons.
- You may be able to continue accessing certain benefits during a legal separation that would be inaccessible after a divorce, like military benefits, healthcare benefits, social security benefits, or tax advantages.
Some couples choose legal separation as a way to begin to separate their finances without getting divorced. For example, if your spouse has a gambling problem or an addiction to deal with, it may be sensible to try a legal separation and divide your assets, debts, and liabilities, even on a temporary basis.
Give careful consideration to the benefits and drawbacks of a legal separation as it is only a temporary pause in your relationship and may be a prelude to divorce. Of course, a legal separation is not a long-term alternative to divorce and is just a temporary order.
Keep in mind that you are not legally permitted to remarry during a legal separation. Remarriage first requires a legal divorce, even if you’ve been living separately for many months.
How Long Does Legal Separation Take?
Indiana requires no waiting period before a legal separation and, unlike some states, Indiana does not require a legal separation before a divorce may be filed and/or granted. Thus, the process can move quickly for someone pursuing a legal separation in Indiana. The legal separation itself lasts no more than one year.
Your spouse may be able to slow down the proceedings by stalling, but it’s unlikely that they will be able to prevent a legal separation entirely simply due to spite or a desire for revenge. The judge’s decision is the final word on whether you will be granted a legal separation.
Please note that if a divorce petition has already been filed, a court will not issue a decree for legal separation. Work with a legal separation attorney to submit the proper documents and prevent a delay that could slow down the process.
How Much Does Legal Separation Cost in Indiana?
According to the Indiana Court Fee Manual, there is a $176 filing fee for a legal separation. Other costs may be assigned by your local county or jurisdiction. You may have additional costs depending on the type of service of process you choose.
These costs may change over time and can vary substantially depending on the situation. Contact a legal separation lawyer or family law attorney to inquire about relevant fees.
Why You Need a Legal Separation Attorney
Although a legal separation is temporary, it initiates a busy period of personal reflection as you sort through details like your living situation, children’s needs, and financial future. The perspective and guidance of an outsider may be valuable as you decide what to do next.
During this time, an Indianapolis legal separation attorney will help you navigate the process and pursue the best path to a successful legal separation. Get the most out of your separation period and build a greater understanding of your rights and responsibilities, whether you decide to continue your relationship or initiate a divorce.
Need a Legal Separation Attorney? Contact Cindy L. Kenworthy, P.C.
When you choose to work with Cindy L. Kenworthy, P.C. for your legal separation, you’re gaining the benefit of almost four decades of family law experience. We’re tactful, discreet, trustworthy, and determined to find solutions with your best interests in mind.
Our goal is to support you, help you understand your rights, and allow you to pursue your best option for a legal separation, divorce, or whatever the future holds. Cindy L. Kenworthy, P.C. has the experience and compassion you need during this challenging period in your life.