Legal Separation

Here at the Law Office Of Louis Lombardo, PC we proudly represent clients in Phoenix, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Queen Creek, Tempe & other cities throughout Arizona in Legal separation & other family law matters.

Arizona is one of a limited number of states to offer spouses the option of a “legal separation.” A legal separation in Arizona is similar to a divorce in almost every way: The parties still divide up their mutual property, they still arrange for legal decision-making and parenting time regarding their children, and they still address issues of child support and/or spousal maintenance. Likewise, neither spouse has to prove that the other did something in particular to justify getting a legal separation. The main difference between legal separation and divorce really comes at the end of the case – rather than get a divorce, the parties continue to be legally married, but “on paper,” they are treated like single people. Once the legal separation is official, all property or debt acquired by a spouse is considered that spouse’s separate property to which the other party has no claim, but neither spouse is legally able to marry someone else).

Also similar to a divorce, the court will make the parties wait at least sixty days from the date the petition for legal separation is served before it will grant a the separation. The court also offers free marriage counseling, and in those legal separation cases where one spouse asks for such counseling, the court may place the case on hold for up to another sixty days before to give the parties a chance to work on reconciliation. The cost of filing a legal separation is also the same as a divorce, and the work involved with attorneys is typically the same.

Some people might question why legal separation is necessary when divorces are no more difficult to obtain and involve practically the same work. A person’s reason for wanting a legal separation may be unique to that person, but it is not uncommon among deeply religious people who do not believe in divorce or for long-time partners who have no intention of remarrying but who also do not want to continue in a normal marriage. Some couples may agree to legally separate but stay married for even more simple reasons, like maintaining eligibility to be on the other spouse’s health insurance plan. Regardless of a person’s reason for wanting a legal separation instead of a divorce, it is a relief that Arizona offers the option.

Legal separations do have other differences than divorce cases. For one, they do not require that the parties say that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” only that a party wishes to live separate and apart from the other. For those spouses that are not sure where a relationship is heading, having this option can be a relief. Also unlike a decree of dissolution of marriage,” a “decree of legal separation” can be “vacated” and the parties returned to the status of “normal” married people if they do ultimately decide to reconcile.

Also unlike a divorce case, A person seeking to get a legal separation does not have to have been a resident of Arizona for at least ninety days before filing. Unlike a divorce case, a person could theoretically file for legal separation the day they moved to Arizona, although the court would still look to see where the children have lived for the last six months before entered orders pertaining to legal decision-making and parenting time. Perhaps the most important difference, however, is that if one of the parties does not agree to a legal separation, either one can ask the court to convert the legal separation to a divorce by simply filing the right paperwork, and the court will do so.

If you or a loved one is going through a similar case, please give my office a call at 480-413-9300. We will give your case an initial evaluation and and advise you on the next steps to take.