Sometimes a marriage just doesn't work out, or you need some time apart from your partner. So when is it a good idea to pursue a legal separation instead of a divorce?
In a legal separation, you and your spouse are still married, but living apart. Some states require this before you can file for divorce; other states allow for a separation but don't require it, while a few states don't recognize legal separations at all, according to a financial planner's column for Forbes.
If your state recognizes legal separations, there are a few scenarios in which you may want to stop at a separation and not pursue a divorce. Here are three reasons mentioned in the Forbes article:
1. To continue to file joint tax returns.
Many separated couples believe they can save money by filing joint tax returns -- but that's not necessarily true, the Forbes article suggests. If your state issues a "decree of separate maintenance" to show you're separated, that means you're not married for tax purposes. But if your state doesn't issue such decrees, you're considered married until you're officially divorced. An experienced attorney can help you get the best outcome for your specific situation.
2. To continue to receive health insurance & Social Security benefits.
Health insurance plans may cover separated spouses, but probably not after a divorce -- check the fine print to see what your plan stipulates, the Forbes column suggests.
Social Security benefits are different. If a marriage lasted 10 years or longer, a divorced spouse may be able to claim to better benefits. That's why some couples remain legally separated until the magic 10-year timeframe is up. But Social Security benefits also depend on other factors, like your age at retirement.
3. To assuage religious or cohabitation concerns.
Religious backgrounds that frown on divorce may be another reason to separate, the Forbes contributor says. Or perhaps you still love your spouse, but just can't stand living together. In these cases, a legal separation offers much of the same qualities as a divorce, but without the official "D" word.