Generally, formal separation is often considered as an alternative to divorce. An action for separate maintenance is filed and prosecuted in the same manner as a divorce proceeding.
Upon the entry of a judgment of separate maintenance, the parties remain married, but the family court has the authority to divide property and order support. Either spouse can “convert” the separate maintenance action into a divorce proceeding, during or after the initial case filing, or even after the entry of a judgment.
So why bother with an action for separate maintenance? Sometimes, health insurance coverage is a significant issue. Especially when one spouse is of an advanced age, with preexisting health issues, separate maintenance may make some sense. Caution: some employers will use the filing of a judgment of separate maintenance as a trigger to terminate coverage for the non-employee spouse.
In other cases, religious concerns interfere with a couple getting divorced. Something to keep in mind, however, is that a separated couple remains legally married. This status works a hardship in many cases which is why formal separations are relatively rare in the family courts.
If you are interested in exploring your options relating to separation vis a vie divorce, contact our offices to schedule a free initial consultation.