Before a couple decides to divorce, they may choose to separate. In New Hampshire, couples can seek a legal separation prior to divorce. A legal separation is usually a precursor to divorce, however, not all legal separations end with divorce. When a couple wants to separate, a legal separation is helpful in setting up the terms of the divorce. It will also outline how the couple can spend funds and pay bills during the interim period. Some people think of a legal separation as a trial divorce. Those who seek a separation don’t have to go on to get a divorce, however, the terms of the separation would need to be revised or canceled. If you are considering divorce, you’ll want to talk to an experienced New Hampshire divorce attorney before you take any action.
What is a Legal Separation?
Most couples separate prior getting divorced. Not every separation is considered a legal separation. In order to be deemed a legal separation, specific filings must be made in court. Separation papers detail the specifics regarding a separation. One of the benefits of choosing a legal separation is that couples can often work together more easily to come to an agreement. Once couples have decided to divorce it can become more difficult for them to discuss issues and agree on the terms of the settlement. A legal separation affords couples similar protections as a divorce. Because the couple is still able to communicate with each other they may be better able to reach important decisions about the division of property and issues regarding the children.
How is a Legal Separation Different from a Divorce?
A divorce is dissolution of a marriage while a legal separation is simply an agreement to live apart. A legal separation outlines all of the same settlement terms that are used in a divorce. If the couple goes on to seek a divorce, the separation agreement typically is used to determine the terms of the divorce. A legal separation may be advisable when the couple is going to live apart. The separation offers a way to end the time period when both spouses are responsible for the debts they incur. A legal separation is not a final divorce, however, and couples are not legally divorced unless and until the divorce papers are filed and the divorce is finalized in court.
Agreement on a Legal Separation
Just like a divorce, couples must come to an agreement as to the terms of the separation. These terms should include important issues such as division of assets and debts, child support, child custody, visitation, and alimony. Additionally, the agreement may address how the couple will access funds during the interim period, prior to a divorce. For example, couples will need to continue to pay for housing expenses, credit card bills, car payments, education expenses, medical bills, and other regular payments. These types of items can be addressed in the agreement. Couples need to discuss the details of the separation in order to come to an agreement. If couples cannot agree the terms of the separation, they need to work together, sometimes with the help of a mediator.
Terms of a Legal Separation
Couples need to work out the terms of a legal separation, which are basically the same as the terms of a divorce. Couples must decide how to divide property, assets, and debts, and work out parenting arrangements. Parents will need to decide where the children will reside, who will have legal and physical custody, and payment of child support. In addition, couples will need to decide how living expenses will be paid during this separation period. Both spouses will have to pay for food, shelter, and clothing, as well as other expenses such as utilities. Couples must decide how to handle finances during the separation period.
Steps for Attaining a Legal Separation
The first step to take when you want to get a legal separation is to speak to a New Hampshire family law attorney. A lawyer with experience working on divorce cases has the expertise to draw up a legal separation. Some couples attempt to forego a legal separation, however, this can be a mistake. If you are considering a divorce, consult with an attorney who will review your situation and help you determine the best course of action. You’ll likely have a lot of questions and your lawyer will take the time to answer them so that you can make an informed decision. Avoid the urge to take matters into your own hand by preparing your own separation papers. Without legal advice this can actually cause more problems than it may solve. In fact, sometimes it can be a mistake that is difficult to resolve without great time and expense.
What to Do Before Getting a Legal Separation
If you are considering a divorce or separation the first step is to make a list of your assets, debts, and possessions. Property or assets acquired during the marriage are considered marital property, which is to be divided equitably between both parties. If there is any particular possession that you feel strongly about you may want to list it. Next, meet with an experienced New Hampshire divorce attorney. The attorney will look at your case and answer your questions. The attorney will be able to give you some guidance on what your options are and will inform you about the procedure involved in divorce.
Choosing an Attorney
It is essential to hire an attorney for a legal separation or divorce. When choosing a lawyer look for someone with expertise in the area of divorce and family law. These attorneys are up to date on the latest divorce laws that will pertain to your situation and are also familiar with the local court proceedings. Opt for a law office that is conveniently located so you can easily meet with your lawyer whenever necessary. Pick an attorney you are comfortable with and one who will be able to provide you with the representation you deserve.
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