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When is legal separation preferable to divorce?

There is good news in the marriage world. Across the country, divorce rates are on the decline. In fact, New York Daily News reports that divorce rates are the lowest they have been in 35 years.

While divorces still occur, many couples are looking toward alternatives, such as legal separation. A legal separation occurs when two spouses have a settlement or property settlement agreement which resolves all their financial concerns and all issues regarding the children. The two spouses are still legally married, but the spouses live separately and have an agreement on the custody and visitation of their children.

Although it may sound odd, there are certain situations where it might be better for a couple to remain legally married, at least for a little more time.

The couple still wants to try to work out problems

There are various situations where married couples recognize there is a problem. The couple may not be ready to file for divorce just yet, but both people want to live on their own. Legal separations are useful in this instance. The couple can continue working through problems without dissolving the marriage entirely.

The couple wants Social Security benefits

Couples who have been together for at least 10 years can obtain certain Social Security benefits. Therefore, two people married for eight or nine years may choose to legally separate for the moment until they cross the 10-year threshold.

The couple wants to continue filing taxes jointly

When two people are no longer married, they have to file individually. This means both people miss out on marital tax deductions. Many couples choose to separate but remain married until the end of the year when they need to file taxes. At that point, they divorce.

The couple has personal reasons

There is a litany of other reasons why a couple would prefer to separate rather than divorce. Perhaps divorce would go against their religion. Any married couples interested in pursuing legal separation should speak with an attorney to review all available options. 

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