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Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones 'Working On Their Marriage'

By Betty Wang, JD on August 29, 2013 1:07 PM

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are taking a break from their marriage, reports CNN. A representative for Zeta-Jones says the two are "taking some time apart to evaluate and work on their marriage."

Douglas, 68, and Zeta-Jones, 43, have two children together. Both say they want the best for their kids, regardless of the outcome, reports a family friend.

But what does their separation mean for their marriage?

Different Types of Separation

Though many headlines say Zeta-Jones and Douglas are "separated," it's reportedly an informal separation, as opposed to a legal separation.

An informal separation is a decision that many married couples make while they're contemplating a more permanent split (i.e., divorce). An informal separation can mean the spouses will live apart, or just operate on separate schedules.

By contrast, a legal separation involves a much more formalized process, wherein a couple's child support, child custody, and property division issues are determined by a court. Unlike a divorce, the couple still remains married during a legal separation, but they'll likely live apart with their own respective property rights and child custody times.

There are many benefits to any type of separation. At the forefront is the fact that the couple can opt back into their marriage without needing to formally get married again. That's not the case with a divorce.

A separation is an ideal option for couples who aren't ready for the ultimate split, but feel that some time apart may help to remedy the current state of their marriage.

Date of Separation Can Be Crucial

If Zeta-Jones and Douglas don't end up working things out and ultimately decide on divorce, the date of their separation could potentially be crucial.

In New York, where the couple lives, the date of separation helps to determine what's considered "marital property." Assets acquired after the date of separation are generally considered a spouse's separate property.

However, because separation is often subjective (and very informal), courts typically look for evidence of finality (physically moving out, for example) to determine what the date of separation is for the purposes of dividing assets.

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