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What is ‘legal separation?’
Legal separation is a formal judgment issued by a court of law that all the issues concerning a marriage have been resolved (child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, distribution of property, attorney fees, and personal conduct) with the exception of marital status. A judgment of a legal separation lawsuit leaves the couple with the legal status of married persons while settling the respective rights and obligations that each spouse has to the other. Spouses who are legally separated are not free to marry since neither has been returned to the legal status of an unmarried (single) person.
Legal separation is usually pursued when the parties want to stay married for religious reasons, want the advantage of deductibility of spousal support payments for income tax reasons, or are do not want to wait the state statutory waiting period for termination of marital status. For some people, a legal separation is desired to set the parameters for dealing with one another while living separate and apart (especially with respect to continuing support obligations and child sharing issues) while maintaining the status of being married, and leaving the door open for a reunion/resumption of marriage.
Legal separation is not a prerequisite to divorce (dissolution of marriage).
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