Making the choice to end your marriage isn’t easy. This decision was likely preceded by months or years of difficulty, but even then you may not be sure how you want to proceed. There are many valid and important reasons a couple may no longer want to be together but remain unwilling to move forward with divorce. In these situations, it may be appropriate to consider the benefits of a legal separation.

A legal separation is different from divorce in one very important way. Even when they live apart, a legally separated couple will remain married. This could be beneficial for you if continuing to live together is no longer possible or you are already living apart and need clarification on certain issues. A legal separation should always come with a formally drafted agreement between the two parties.

What’s in your agreement?

When a couple divorces, several things happen. A spouse may no longer be able to remain on the other spouse’s insurance plan, they have to separate their property and they no longer have the authority to make medical decisions for the other. These are only a few of the ways that a divorce will alter a relationship. A legal separation is different for the following reasons:

  • You will remain married, so you can remain on the same insurance policy if you want.
  • You and your spouse will retain inheritance rights in case of the death of the other.
  • You and your spouse will still be next-of-kin, having the right to make medical decisions for the other in case of an emergency.

It’s not enough to simply move out and declare it’s a separation. While this may work for some couples, it does not offer you any protection unless you have an agreement. This is important because it allows you to outline how you want things such as child custody, property division, spousal support and other important factors to work during your time of separation. The more thorough you can be, the lower the chance that you will experience disagreements and complications.

For many couples, a legal separation agreement serves as the foundation for a divorce order down the road. It is in your interests to make sure it includes what you need for a secure future, both during your separation and beyond. As with all major family law decisions, you will find it beneficial to speak with a North Carolina attorney before you make a choice that will significantly impact your family.