Every once in a while I get asked about legal separation. In just over nineteen years of practice, I have filed only one petition for legal separation (Update 7/31-09: make that now two) Why so few? It seems when I finish explaining to the potential client what they get from a legal separation that they always ask me why they should want to go through all of that? My first legal separation case was converted to a divorce.
I think some people confuse separating from the spouse as part of the divorce with legal separation as separation as a kind of legal action. In a divorce, separation means the date that the parties split up and the date of separation has relevance to division of property. All which occurs before filing anything with a court.
Legal separation as a kind of legal action begins with filing a Petition for Legal Separation with a court. Most of the requirements parallel those of a dissolution petition (residency, for example), but there are three major differences:
- The marriage is not irretrievably broken but "conditions in or circumstances of the marriage make it currently intolerable for both parties to live together."
- Instead of the marriage being dissolved, "the marriage should be maintained."
- A legal separation is only effective for one year.
Such is legal separation in Indiana. The procedure does have its uses so long as its limitations are understood.
7/31/09: Since writing the above, I have written more about legal separation. Follow the link below that says "legal separation" or see here and here and here.