Defining relationships can be a challenge, particularly in our flexible modern world. When a couple decides to separate, boundaries shift and the previous relationships which defined people’s lives become muddied and strained. However, the law can provide context and a framework that is helpful during this time of transition.

Many might assume that a separation is the same as a divorce, but there are considerable differences. Couples might decide to do a trial separation before going ahead with the full legal procedure. In cases involving child custody, asking for legal advice can help both sides come to an agreement without additional strife. In general, sometimes couples initially opt for legal separations because they want to live apart, while still be married to each other and are not certain about filing for a legal divorce. Other reasons could include opposition to divorce for religious reasons, one spouse might be eligible for the other’s health or government benefits, the couple is ineligible to file for divorce under a state’s residency requirements, or there is hope for a reconciliation. A legal separation will still resolve issues about child custody, property division and finances, but the specifics of those need further legal scrutiny because they vary by state laws. In Oregon, the primary difference between separation and divorce is that you are still married if you are just separated. This means that you cannot marry again (until you’re divorced), and you will be seen as married for tax and inheritance purposes.

A legal separation can be an easier decision to reverse when compared to divorce. A divorce will end the marriage, leaving the former spouses free to remarry. But divorces should not be confused with permanent separations, which are still considered a separation and not a divorce. During the permanent separation time, the couple is still married and has decided that they will not reconcile. Only filing for divorce will end the permanent separation. As a divorce becomes imminent, the date of separation provides a date for the finances and responsibilities that each spouse owes to each other to relate back to. Many questions will arise as you organize your new single life, such as: am I responsible for my former partner’s debts when we were separated? What steps must I complete to separate our residences and assets? How is divorce going to affect our children from a legal standpoint?

The Mastanduno Law Group understands that these painful changes can be damaging to a family and want to provide you with our level-headedness and knowledge as you move forward. We believe that providing collaborative services to families is a very effective way to encourage amicable solutions during sad events and we want to help you as you approach a new chapter in your life.