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Your Rights During a Legal Separation

The Torres Law Firm April 10, 2024

When couples decide that living apart is the best course of action, understanding one’s rights during a legal separation becomes paramount. Just as in divorce proceedings, clarity and awareness of legal rights ensure both parties can uphold their interests effectively. At The Torres Law Firm, we’re dedicated to enlightening our clients on the intricacies of legal separation and how it differs from divorce. Here, we lay out the essential rights and considerations you should be aware of during this transitional phase. 

Understanding Legal Separation 

Legal separation is a significant step for couples contemplating a change in their marital status. It's a process that allows you and your spouse to live separately while remaining legally married, providing space to evaluate the future of your relationship. During this period, it's crucial to understand that decisions made can have long-lasting implications on your financial and personal life. We're committed to guiding you through these decisions. 

One of the primary concerns during a legal separation is the financial arrangement between the separated couple. This includes understanding: 

  • Spousal Support: Even during separation, you might be entitled to receive or be obligated to pay spousal support. This is determined based on many factors including income, length of marriage, and the standard of living established during the marriage. 

  • Asset Management: Understanding how assets acquired during the separation are treated is crucial. In some jurisdictions, assets and debts accrued during this period are considered separate property. 

  • Child Support and Custody: When children are involved, their well-being is our top priority. During a legal separation, determining child custody and support arrangements is crucial. These decisions should reflect the best interests of the children, considering their needs, routines, and relationships with both parents. We strive to help you reach an agreement that supports your children's stability and happiness, while also respecting your rights as a parent. 

Protecting your assets during a legal separation is essential. This involves: 

  • Documenting Agreements: It’s advisable to document any agreements made during the separation concerning financial arrangements, property division, and child custody. This documentation can be vital in preventing misunderstandings or disputes. 

  • Access to Joint Accounts: Both parties retain access to joint bank accounts unless otherwise stipulated in a separation agreement. It’s often recommended to amicably decide on the management of these accounts or to seek legal advice for a formal arrangement. 

Although partners are separated, they are legally still married until after a divorce. Because of this, both partners are still entitled to the same benefits, including health and insurance benefits.  

  • Health Insurance: Typically, separating legally allows the non-employee spouse to remain on the employee spouse's health insurance plan, a benefit usually lost in divorce. 

  • Life Insurance and Beneficiary Rights: Legal separation does not automatically change life insurance policy beneficiaries. It’s important to revisit and possibly revise your beneficiary designations in light of the separation. 

  • Estate Planning and Inheritance Rights: Legal separation can also impact your estate planning and inheritance rights. It's important to review and possibly update your will, power of attorney, and beneficiary designations to reflect your current wishes.  

At The Torres Law Firm, our aim is to empower you with knowledge and guidance, ensuring that your rights are protected and your future secure during this pivotal time. 

Steps to Take After Legal Separation 

After legally separating from your spouse, you should take steps to secure your future and ensure all legal and financial matters are appropriately addressed. Here are some key actions to consider: 

  • Review and Update Legal Documents: Post-separation is a good time to review and update essential legal documents. This includes your will, beneficiaries on life insurance policies, and retirement accounts to ensure they align with your current wishes. 

  • Establish a New Budget: With your household income and expenses likely changing, creating a new budget that reflects your current financial situation is essential. Consider all sources of income, including any spousal or child support, and outline your monthly expenses to maintain financial stability. 

  • Close Joint Accounts and Open New Ones: To protect your financial integrity, close any joint bank and credit accounts. Open new accounts in your name to start building your individual financial identity and credits. 

  • Ensure Compliance with Separation Agreement: Adhere strictly to any terms outlined in your separation agreement, including alimony, child support payments, or any mutually-agreed-upon financial arrangements. Non-compliance could result in legal repercussions. 

  • Monitor and Protect Your Credit: Regularly check your credit report to ensure all information is accurate and no joint accounts have been overlooked. This is also a way to safeguard against identity theft or unauthorized financial activities. 

  • Seek Emotional Support: The end of a marriage is challenging. Engage in activities that support your well-being, and don’t hesitate to seek help from a therapist or support groups. Taking care of your emotional health is as important as managing your financial affairs. 

By following these steps, you not only protect your legal and financial interests post-separation but also start building a foundation for your new life ahead. 

Making Informed Decisions 

Determining whether legal separation is the right step for you involves careful consideration of your situation, rights, and future. It’s essential to seek professional legal advice to understand the implications fully. Our team at The Torres Law Firm is committed to providing the guidance you need to make informed decisions. We prioritize your well-being and legal rights, offering comprehensive support throughout the separation process.