Am I entitled to any financial support if we're separated?
Sometimes couples live in a state that allows for something called a legal separation. Unlike the dissolution of a marriage, separation gives couples a sort of “trial divorce” period where they can decide if divorce is right for them. They might live apart, maintain separate bank accounts, and live entirely as if they were divorced, but legally they remain married. When couples live apart, they’re able to get a feel for how things will be if they go through with the divorce. During the separation period, couples adhere to a separation agreement that sets forth the rules on things like division of property, residences, and of course, financial matters.
For the dependent spouse, things can be very difficult during a separation. They no longer have access to the other spouse’s income. In the case of divorce, people come up with an alimony agreement. Alimony allows the non-dependent spouse to continue supporting the dependent spouse with monthly or even annual payments (whatever the couples agree on). The main question most dependent spouses will have during a separation is, “Can you get alimony during separation?”
Understanding Separate Maintenance
Alimony DOES exist during a separation, but it’s called separation maintenance. This is the form of financial support you might be awarded if you decide to separate from a spouse you’ve become financially dependent on. And of course, most of the time both parties may disagree on the amount of the separation maintenance. It’s often up to the courts to decide how much separation maintenance you need during the time of the separation.
What a separation accomplishes is showing both parties what a final divorce will feel and look like. It means dividing up property just like you would in a divorce, determining child custody arrangements, child support payments, and yes, sometimes separate maintenance. Since you’ll be getting the same amount of money you MIGHT get during a divorce arrangement, you will be able to see exactly what the quality of your life will be like if you choose to go through with the divorce. Many couples choose to reconcile during the separation because it’s simply not working out for them. In ideal circumstances, they realize that they still love each other and have a life that they need to live together. In other cases, the couple will have a final separation agreement that can then be converted into a divorce agreement and pursued through the courts to bring about a permanent divorce.
Determining Separate Maintenance
Separate Maintenance is very much like alimony, and many things will be taken into consideration when you figure up how much you should receive during the separation. Some folks choose to simply separate and maintain their lives financially apart from one another, devoid of any kind of maintenance. Other folks realize that the other spouse has given up time and money to take care of the home instead of working, and therefore they’re going to need some form of financial compensation during the separation, just like they would need if they were divorced.
Length of the marriage will sometimes determine in some way what the amount will be. The income of the non-dependent spouse will be taken into account, as well as any child support payments they’re also making, and then the dependent spouse will get to see a final total that they might receive if a legal separation goes through. As with any legal separation, it’s the court that will usually determine the final amounts, although it’s not unheard of for the non-dependent spouse to go ahead and agree with a hair number instead of letting the court decide. In recent years, mediators have proven especially helpful because it keeps the matters out of the courts and allows couples to work through their differences without having to let judges decide their fate. It’s not always possible to reach agreements, though, especially on financial matters. The same goes for legal separation just like it does with divorce.
Contact a Lawyer
In all divorce and legal separation matters, a lawyer is going to be your best friend in this case. They’re the ones who know the laws in your state as it pertains to separate maintenance and general matters of legal separation. If you try to do things yourself, you can really hurt your cause. To answer the simple question: “Am I entitled to any financial support if we’re separated,” the answer is: You might be! There’s a possibility. It will depend partially on the amount of time you’ve been married, mostly on the income of your spouse and yourself, and then of course any mitigating factors like is the other spouse already paying child support or other bills during the separation.
Legal separation can be mutually beneficial to both spouses as they try to work out the differences in their marriages. And while no one wants to live apart from a spouse, sometimes it’s the only thing that can save a marriage that has gone horrifically off-track during the years together. If you’re facing a legal separation, it’s time to call our law offices today. Our experienced team of veteran divorce lawyers can work with you to determine if you’re entitled to any kind of financial support if you go ahead with a legal separation or if your spouse chooses to file for one. We’re always here to help!