Understanding the Difference Between Divorce and Separation
Yes, there is a difference between divorce and separation. In a divorce, one spouse initiates the process by filing a petition to terminate the marriage. The couple then negotiates various issues like child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. If they cannot reach an agreement, the court intervenes and makes a decision based on state-specific methods. Finally, the court approves the agreement or creates its own, thereby ending the marriage. After a divorce, either spouse is free to remarry.
On the other hand, legal separation allows couples to address the same divorce-related issues, but they remain legally married at the end of the process. Separation permits spouses to live as if they are unmarried, allowing them to enter into or terminate contracts individually and buy or sell property in their own names. However, if one wishes to remarry, they must first request the court to convert their separation into a divorce.
Why Choose Legal Separation?
Couples face complex and personal decisions when considering divorce. Only they can determine which legal process suits them best. Some couples opt for legal separation to maintain health or tax benefits that they would lose after a divorce. Others may believe in the possibility of reconciliation, viewing divorce as a permanent solution.
Although every couple’s situation is unique, common reasons for choosing legal separation over divorce include:
- Religious, social, or moral objections to divorce.
- Preserving valuable benefits like social security or military benefits.
- Using separation as a trial run for divorce.
- When the couple is not on the same page regarding the relationship, but both spouses compromise and agree to legal separation.
Legal Separation in Idaho: Possibility and Process
Yes, legal separation, also known as separate maintenance, is available in Idaho. The process begins when one spouse files a petition for separation. The petition must provide the court with information such as the couple’s names, wedding date, when they began living apart, and their addresses. Additionally, one of the spouses must meet the state’s residency requirement, which means residing in Idaho for at least six weeks before filing for separation.
Similar to divorce, couples must state a legal reason or grounds for the separation request. Idaho law allows couples to seek either a no-fault or fault-based separation. The no-fault option simplifies the process by citing irreconcilable differences, indicating that the couple cannot repair their relationship. Alternatively, if one spouse wishes to blame the other, they can prove one of the seven available grounds recognized in Idaho.
There is a mandatory 20-day waiting period before the court can take action. During this time, it is essential for both spouses to negotiate their separation agreement, covering custody, support, and property division. If they cannot reach an agreement, the court will make the decisions on their behalf.
It is important to note that legal separation in Idaho is not permanent. Either party can terminate the agreement and file for divorce at any time. In such cases, the court would incorporate the separation agreement into the final divorce judgment. Conversely, if the couple resolves their differences and wishes to reconcile, they can resume living together and ask the court to terminate their separation.
Trial Separation: Exploring Options Before Divorce or Separation
If you are unsure about diving straight into the complex processes of divorce or separation, you may benefit from a trial separation. For some couples, living apart for a specified period allows them to evaluate the marriage without involving the court.
Since trial separations are informal arrangements without court approval or monitoring, couples are free to create temporary agreements that suit their families. While verbal agreements are common, a written agreement can provide more security and clarity about expectations during the trial period. It is important to note that the court will not enforce the agreement unless the proper steps for separation are followed, but having a written agreement can minimize miscommunication.
At the end of a trial separation, couples can choose to reconcile, file for a legal separation, or proceed with a divorce.
Understanding a Separation Agreement
A separation agreement is a legally-binding contract signed by both spouses and approved by a judge. Its purpose is to resolve the complex legal issues arising from divorce and separation cases. This agreement outlines plans for custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and the division of property and debts. In Idaho, the court cannot approve a proposed order unless all marital property is distributed between the couple.
Once the judge signs the agreement, it becomes binding for both spouses.
Implications of Separation on Custody
When going through separation, it is crucial to address custody arrangements. If the couple does not decide on custody themselves, the court will intervene. The judge considers various factors, including each parent’s ability to care for the child’s best interests. This evaluation incorporates the wishes of the parents and, in some cases, the child’s opinions. The judge also assesses each parent’s capability, fitness, the child’s relationship with each parent, and the child’s need for stability.
Considering Legal Representation
Whether or not you should hire an attorney depends on your personal circumstances. While it is not mandatory, separation and divorce cases involve complex legal matters that require specialized knowledge. Laws pertaining to these matters are continually changing in Idaho. If you lack confidence in understanding the most up-to-date laws, it is advisable to seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney in your area.
To learn more about legal separation in Idaho, visit Garrity Traina.