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There are many reasons to consider a legal separation

If there are issues in your marriage that cannot be resolved, you may be considering divorce—except you know that there is no going back. Divorce is final.

On the other hand, the dissolution of your marriage may not be the answer to the issues you are experiencing, simply because it is not an option. Whatever the circumstances, legal separation might be the best solution for you and your spouse.

Why you cannot divorce

You may not be able to divorce because your religion forbids it. If religion is not a problem for you, financial issues could be. For example, perhaps you are covered under the company health insurance plan that your spouse carries. If you divorce, you would no longer have access to that plan, and you cannot afford to buy health insurance on your own. Another reason to remain legally married is that as the nonworking spouse, you must be married for 10 years before you are eligible to receive Social Security benefits that are based on spousal earnings.

How legal separation works

A legal separation will allow you to remain married, but you and your spouse will live apart and build separate lives. Just as in a dissolution of marriage, the two of you will abide by a legal agreement. You would divide your assets and debts, establish alimony payments (if applicable), develop a parenting plan if you have minor children and, in general, work out the same sort of settlement agreement that you would if you were actually going through a divorce.

Still partners

You were partners in your marriage, and through a legal separation, you would remain partners in a sense. Some people use separation as a trial period, to make sure that divorce is really what they want. This kind of arrangement can last for weeks, months or for the long term. If, at some point, you do decide to divorce, the agreement you already have in place will make the actual dissolution of your marriage a less complicated, less stressful event.

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