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What Happens Financially During A Legal Separation?

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When you know your marriage is potentially over, you may choose to legally separate prior to actually getting a divorce. A legal separation is when you and your spouse do not live together while you nail down the details of your split. This is akin to a trial period to ensure you both actually want to move forward with a divorce. However, there are some financial risks you need to think about during a legal separation. Here is what you need to know:

What Happens to Joint Property During a Legal Separation?

A legal separation does not offer the same benefits as a divorce when it comes to your assets. Because you are still legally married, you both remain entitled to your marital assets. If you jointly own property or share a bank account, your spouse still has the right to utilize those assets until you formally divide your assets upon divorce.

This means your spouse can sell your marital assets or make purchases with jointly owned money until you are divorced. If you know you plan to get divorced and you have concerns about your assets, it is best to have a shorter separation.

Should You Remain Separated Long Term?

Most legal professionals will advise that you not stay in a legal separation for the long term. If you are unsure about the state of your marriage, you both should seek counseling and get to the bottom of what is driving you apart. If you believe you can move past your issues, you should work on rebuilding your marriage. However, if you believe your marriage is truly over, you need to avoid a legal separation for a long time. It only makes your situation more complicated.

What If Your Spouse Passes Away?

If your spouse passes away during your separation, there can be some legal issues you will have to deal with. What happens varies by state intestacy laws. This happens if your spouse does not have a will in place. In this situation, the assets of the deceased spouse will be dispersed in a way similar to how it would have had a will been made. In many cases, the deceased assets go to a legal spouse and children, but could also go to his or her parents in some cases. You will have to work closely with your attorney to determine what happens to your assets according to your state laws.

Talk to your divorce lawyer if you have further questions about your separation.