The Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce in Minnesota

In Minnesota, couples have the option to legally separate through either a divorce or a legal separation. If you find yourself considering these choices, you may be wondering about the distinctions between the two. In this article, we will explore the differences between legal separation and divorce in Minnesota and help you understand which option might be best for you.

Understanding Legal Separation

A legal separation in Minnesota is not the same as physical separation, where you and your spouse live apart. It’s important to note that legally separating doesn’t require court papers for physical separation. Contrary to popular belief, physically separating from your spouse does not mean that you have abandoned the marriage or the home. It also doesn’t waive your rights or obligations to property interests.

To be legally separated in Minnesota, you need to serve and file a petition in court, just like in a divorce. This process involves dealing with issues such as custody, parenting time, child support, and possible spousal maintenance orders. The time and financial investments required for legal separation are similar to those involved in a divorce.

However, it’s crucial to understand that a legal separation does not terminate your marriage. You will still be considered married in various legal contexts, including filing your income tax return and owning real estate. If you decide to end your marriage and sever all ties with your spouse, you will need to go through the court process to obtain a divorce.

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Choosing Between Divorce and Legal Separation

If a legal separation and a divorce take a similar amount of time and money, you may wonder why someone would choose legal separation over divorce. One reason is that legal separation allows you and your spouse to legally divide your obligations and responsibilities while you decide whether to reconcile your marriage. It offers the opportunity to resolve many issues involved in a divorce without terminating the marriage itself. These issues include property division, debt responsibility, child custody, parenting time, child support, and spousal maintenance.

Legal separation might also be chosen due to religious beliefs, moral values against divorce, or specific tax or financial reasons. If you and your spouse decide to separate but cannot agree on these matters, a legal separation can help you reach a fair agreement without requiring an immediate end to your marriage. It can also protect your interests during a period of informal physical separation.

It’s important to note that the decisions and actions made during any separation, be it legal or physical, can affect a future divorce. For example, how you maintain your relationship with your child during separation can impact a judge’s custody decision. If you had no contact with your child during the separation period, it might be challenging to obtain custody in the divorce. This is why a legal separation can be beneficial, even if you plan to divorce at a later date.

Furthermore, a legal separation is easier to reverse than a divorce. Divorce permanently terminates a marriage, requiring you to remarry if you wish to reconcile. Legal separation allows you to retain the agreements made during the separation without eliminating them through divorce, making it a more flexible option.

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Understanding Separation Agreements

You and your spouse can negotiate a separation agreement, with the help of a mediator or an attorney. While a mediator cannot provide legal advice, a lawyer can guide you through the process, explain the potential impact of the terms on a future divorce, and prepare the necessary documents.

A separation agreement addresses various issues, including child custody, support, insurance premiums, debt responsibility, mortgage payment on the marital home, and possession of marital property. It serves as a written agreement that both parties sign, preventing confusion and disagreement. If you ultimately decide to divorce, you can use the agreement as a basis for drafting a marital settlement agreement.

Filing for Legal Separation in Minnesota

To initiate a legal separation case in Minnesota, you must file the separation papers in the district court where one spouse resides. These papers typically include the original Summons, Petition, and an Affidavit of Service. It’s crucial to serve these documents in a specific manner as required by court rules.

Living Together During Separation

You don’t always have to live in separate residences to be considered separated. For various reasons, such as financial constraints, some couples may choose to remain in the same house while living as roommates rather than as a married couple.

Understanding Your Rights if Your Spouse Moves Out

If your spouse moves out of the house, it doesn’t mean they have abandoned the marriage or the property. Unless there is a court order preventing their return, they can still come back to the home. However, how bills are paid during their absence can impact the financial outcome. Their absence does not completely waive their rights.

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Seeking Guidance

If you still have questions, Garrity Traina is here to help. It’s crucial to make an informed decision because both divorce and legal separation affect your rights. We offer free consultations to provide you with a clear understanding of your options and how an attorney can assist you. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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