Ending a marriage is a serious decision, and not one any person should make lightly. Divorce is a complex and expensive process, and your divorce is likely to influence your life in many ways. Some of the effects of divorce can be difficult to anticipate, and the emotionally charged nature of most divorce cases makes it difficult for some people to remain objective about the legal decisions that follow.
Sometimes, a couple having marital problems need time and space to cool off and make more rational decisions about their future. This type of situation is when legal separation is ideal. Instead of permanently dissolving the marriage like divorce, legal separation essentially allows a couple to maintain the practical benefits of marriage while establishing separate living arrangements. In many cases, legal separation serves as a springboard to divorce, ultimately streamlining future divorce proceedings. In other cases, legal separation can provide the room both spouses need to eventually reconcile or establish separate lifestyles while maintaining the economic benefits legal marriage provides.
How Does Legal Separation Work in Kansas?
In Kansas, legal separation allows a married couple to establish separate living arrangements while remaining legally married. However, the couple must address many of the same issues they would need to handle for divorce:
- The couple must divide their property according to state law. Kansas enforces an equitable distribution rule, which means the spouses must split their property as equitably as possible. However, this does not mean a completely even 50/50 division of marital property. Some couples can settle property division privately through alternative dispute resolution, but other couples will need to go through the family court system and have a judge settle property division according to state law.
- If the couple has children, they must develop a child custody and support agreement. Since the spouses will be living separately, this is likely to influence their children’s living arrangements, too. If one spouse is remaining in the marital home, a judge will likely prefer to have the children remain in the marital home as well to minimize disruption of the children’s lives as much as possible. However, the Wichita, KS family court system has a duty to ensure the best interests of any children the court’s orders will affect. As such, child custody will unfold differently for every family that undergoes the legal separation process.
- Some legal separations will involve spousal support. When one spouse earns significantly more income than the other, or if one spouse is entirely financially dependent on the other, the property division agreement could potentially account for these disparities. However, some couples will require additional spousal support agreements. Kansas family court judges will consider several factors while determining a fair support agreement. Alternatively, a separating couple may privately negotiate spousal support terms on their own.
- The separating spouses must establish separate living arrangements. Technically, it is possible for a legally separated couple to remain living together in the same household. However, they should have separate bedrooms and handle their respective lifestyles separately. In most cases, legally separated spouses will move apart from one another, but one may remain in the marital home if the situation allows it.
Legal separation is very similar to divorce in almost every way without fully ending the marriage. Once legal separation is granted, the couple can potentially abide by the terms of the order indefinitely, have the order rescinded if they decide to reconcile and resume their marriage, or decide to proceed with a divorce. During the separation, the legally separated spouses can continue taking advantage of the practical benefits of their legal marriage while living separate lifestyles.
Benefits of Legal Separation vs Divorce
The primary benefit of legal separation over divorce is the fact that, since the couple remains legally married, they can continue to access some of the legal benefits their marriage offers. For example, if the couple shares healthcare coverage through one of their employers, they can continue to do so. This can be beneficial for older spouses who have no intentions of remarrying new partners and need to address ongoing medical concerns.
Legal separation also does not prevent the couple from taking advantage of certain couples’ tax benefits. While their tax filings are likely to be more complex if they establish separate residences, they are still likely to qualify for many of the tax breaks only afforded to married couples.
A legal separation can also serve as a preliminary step toward a future divorce or reconciliation. Marriage can entail a host of difficult issues, and some couples need space apart to approach these situations with clarity. After a period of legal separation, the couple could decide that living apart is beneficial for both and proceed with finalizing their divorce. However, they may also realize they want to fix their marriage, and legal separation can offer a period of clarity that helps them refocus on the task of addressing marital issues.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Legal Separation?
Technically, it is possible to complete the legal separation process in Wichita, KS without an attorney. However, since your legal separation will require addressing many of the same issues as divorce, separation can be an incredibly challenging process if you do not have legal representation on your side. You may not know how to address complex issues in your divorce, or you could overlook crucial details that can force lengthy divorce proceedings.
Your Wichita, KS family law attorney can help you have a much better experience with your legal separation by assisting you in accomplishing your goals for this type of case. You can rely on your legal team to help you with financial disclosure and securing the documentation and other materials you may need for a child custody determination. If your case involves any complex details, such as a prenuptial contract, domestic violence, or criminal behavior, you will need reliable legal counsel to help you address these variables, as well.
For Wichita couples, there are many benefits to choosing legal separation over divorce, but it is always best to approach any family law matter with reliable legal counsel on your side. If you are unsure whether legal separation is the best option for your situation, contact an experienced Wichita, KS family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.