Do I Need a Lawyer for a Legal Separation?

Separating can be hard emotionally and financially. A legal separation overseen by the courts can help to ensure that both parties are treated fairly during the process. Hiring a lawyer to help with your legal separation is highly recommended, especially if you have minor children and/or a complex financial situation. As an experienced Tampa, FL Family Law Group – including The McKinney Law Group – can confirm, couples navigating the process of separation too often attempt to do so informally. In doing so, couples often create far more stress for themselves (in both the short-term and long-term) than they would if they pursued a legal separation–complete with clear boundaries and expectations. 

Legal Separation Versus Divorce

In a lot of ways, the process of legally separating is the same as divorce. Both require you to file in court and both factor in situations such as child custody, child support, alimony orders, and separation of shared assets. However, legal separation allows you to remain married and doesn’t require you to address any aspect of your current situation legally (such as separating assets formally) that doesn’t make sense for your situation. Whether you hope to reconcile with your spouse or not, this process will help you to protect your rights and your spouse’s rights as you deal with whatever may be next in your marital relationship. 

Creating an Agreement

Generally speaking, to legally separate, you and your spouse need to come to an agreement, document it, and sign it. Once signed, it will serve as a legally binding contract. The contract should include who will continue to live in the family home, how money or other shared assets will be divided, who has legal and physical custody of the children, and how often the other parent will get to have time with them. If alimony is necessary, the contract should cover it. Technically, you can create and sign an agreement without going through the court system; however, should one of you violate it, it will be harder to fight if it wasn’t created in court. If you decide to end the marriage down the line, you can legally divorce or, in some cases, file a petition for dissolution. 

The Benefits of Hiring an Attorney

Hiring a lawyer to help you file a legal separation in court is highly recommended. A family law attorney is familiar with the laws guiding the legal separation procedure, may be familiar with how the judge proceeds with these matters, and can act as a mediator to ensure the agreement is in the best interest of both parties and not fueled by anger. A lawyer also might think of things you hadn’t thought to include in your agreement, such as who pays for a child’s extracurricular activities, or who gets to use a shared vacation house, and when. 

Going through a legal separation is hard enough. Don’t let the complexities of the law make it harder. Contact a local family lawyer to help you through this process.