There are several things to consider in deciding to get legally separated. The cost, while not the sole factor, may be of concern to some people. After all, it’s not cheap to go through legal processes and hire lawyers—and if you’re getting legally separated, you’re going to want to hire a lawyer.
In the state of Arizona, the court charges $349 for the filing fee and then $279 for the response to the petition or initial appearance. However, there may be other costs involved in the process, depending on if you have to go to mediation for anything or if there is a long, drawn-out trial involved where more legal fees are incurred.
Filing for legal separation is similar to filing for divorce. You will have to cover the same topics in the separation agreement, including things like:
- Custody of children
- Legal decision-making for children and dependents
- Child support
- Spousal maintenance
- Asset and debt division
Because there are so many different elements involved, it can take some time and work to get through the process.
Should I File for Legal Separation Myself or Have an Attorney Do It?
It’s always a good idea to have a dedicated divorce lawyer on your side when you are going through the process, or even considering, legal separation. Not only will they better understand the laws and the process, but they’ve been through the steps dozens, if not hundreds, of times in their career and to them, it’s just another day at the office.
They will know what to look for, which elements need to be covered in the agreement, how to protect yourself or your children from changes when the divorce goes through eventually, and other matters. They will have the knowledge and expertise to help walk you through the process so that you know what to expect, which can alleviate a lot of stress for many people.
What Are The Advantages of Legal Separation?
Many people wonder why someone would file for legal separation instead of just getting a divorce. The short answer is that everyone has their reasons. However, the more accurate answer requires a bit more explanation. Legal separation is an option for those who are married and who are not sure if they are ready for divorce. They may use this as a stepping stone to divorce or as an attempt to prevent the divorce from happening by taking the time to resolve the issues at hand.
Several advantages come from being legally separated, even if you aren’t ready for divorce. These include:
- Time apart allows you to see how you really feel and whether you want to continue the relationship.
- You can remain on each other’s insurance even during a legal separation.
- You will no longer be responsible for the debts of your spouse.
- You will be able to live separately and move forward with your lives when divorce isn’t an option for religious or other reasons.
Legal separation carries many of the same implications as divorce. It’s just not as final and it allows people to take some time and decide if they need that final step or if they want to fix things.
Do I Have to Get a Divorce if I’m Legally Separated?
Some people wonder if there is a requirement to move from the state of being legally separated to actually getting divorced. In Arizona, you can remain legally separated for as long as you’d like and you never have to get divorced. Even if you don’t reconcile, you can remain married and continue to live separately, so long as you can continue to uphold the terms of the separation agreement.
Some people don’t consider legal separation because they’re worried that it means they will have to get divorced. In Arizona, however, as in many states, the courts would much rather people reconcile, or at least stay married when it’s an agreeable situation for all involved. Again, this is where having a lawyer can help you navigate the next steps and help you see that you aren’t backing yourself into a corner when you choose legal separation.
How Long Do Legal Separations Last?
As mentioned, legal separations can last for as long as you’d like. As long as both spouses agree, it can remain intact for decades, if you’d like. It’s reversible, though, so when you do decide that it’s time to reconcile, you can simply notify the courts and they will help you navigate the process of ending the legal separation and getting back to your lives.
If there is a discrepancy between the spouses as to whether they should continue the separation or get divorced, one may file for divorce on the other. However, it’s best if you can remain amicable and try to agree on these decisions so that it works out in everyone’s best interest.
Can I Get Child Support and Alimony During Separation?
Arizona does allow people to petition the court for child support and alimony during a legal separation, just as they would in the instance of divorce. How much you are entitled to will depend on several factors, including who has custody of the children, how many there are, and what the income situation is like. For example, a stay-at-home parent may seek alimony and child support from the parent that was the sole provider so that they can maintain their standard of living and provide for the children.
The exact terms of this, as well as the rest of the terms of the separation, will depend on what you and your spouse manage to work out. However, it can be a more affordable, amenable way to work through issues in your marriage if you’re not quite ready for divorce.
If you think that legal separation might be the right choice for your marriage, contact a qualified divorce and separation agreement lawyer today. With professional support and expertise, you’ll get a fair outcome every time.