DIVORCE vs. LEGAL SEPARATION – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Many clients will ask me “What is the difference between filing for divorce and filing for legal separation?” or “Will filing for legal separation put a stop to our community assets accumulating?” The general answer I give is that filing for divorce and filing for legal separation are fairly similar. However, there are a few distinct, and important, differences that clients need to know before making the decision on which route to take.
Whether you file for divorce or for legal separation in Arizona, the marital “community” is terminated and your assets and debts will be divided. In other words, you and your spouse will no longer accumulate community property, regardless of whether you file for divorce or legal separation. Other key similarities between the two paths are that an order for child support and child custody may be entered into, and in some cases, an order for spousal maintenance as well.
If you want to legally separate, you initiate the process by filing a “Petition for Legal Separation” with the court. If you later want to divorce, or if you decide from the beginning that divorce is more appropriate than legal separation, you file a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” Other than the title of the document, the procedure in Arizona for filing a legal separation is identical to filing for divorce.
One of the following differences between filing for divorce versus filing for legal separation may be the determining factor as to why you would choose one route over the other. Here are some key differences between divorce and legal separation: (1) After you are divorced, your legal status is changed to single, as opposed to a legal separation where you remain legally married; (2) You cannot re-marry if you are only legally separated; and (3) Some health insurance plans allow your coverage to continue if you are legally separated but not if you are divorced.
If one party files for legal separation, and the other party files for divorce, the court will combine and convert the legal separation case with the divorce case – basically, if one party wants a divorce, that decision overrides the other party wanting a legal separation.
Lastly, if the parties file for Legal Separation and later decide that they want to divorce, the matter can be converted to a divorce proceeding.
The decision of whether to divorce or file for legal separation should be determined not only by your personal goals but also by what you want to accomplish legally. For instance, if you’d like to stay married but want to divide your property or protect yourself from your spouse’s irresponsible spending; or if you want to separate but find it necessary to remain on your spouse’s health insurance, or if you’re not sure that you want to permanently end your relationship — then a Legal Separation may be the best route. On the other hand, if your marriage is over and you just want to sever all ties, then a divorce is the way to go.
Hanna Juncaj is an attorney whose practice is focused exclusively on Family Law. She is a graduate of Arizona State University and Summit Law School, where she was named the Vice Managing Editor of the prestigious Law Review. Hanna is dedicated to helping families and children. She is an attorney who deeply cares about the clients she represents. Check out our website at www.famlawaz.com. If you are in need of a consultation, you can always contact us by email or call our office at 602-383-3610.
Family Law Client
I had a very legally and emotionally difficult case and was fortunate enough to have Mr. Frank’s legal assistance. Mr. Frank was extremely professional, reliable, and competent. He always kept me informed of my case, and he gave me great legal insights. His litigation expertise and easy disposition allowed me to be comfortable and less stressed considering the situation. Mr. Frank always treated me with respect and valued my input. I felt part of a collaborative effort rather than the usual attorney-client relationship. It was a pleasure working with Mr. Frank, and I would most definitely recommend him to my friends and family.
I would recommend your services to anyone!
I am very satisfied for all you have done for me throughout my divorce and custody cases. You listened to what was important to me and you made it your number-one priority. The safety of my children meant the world to me and you helped me keep them safe. You are excellent in the courtroom. Throughout all of my court cases and different issues with my ex-husband, you helped me stay calm and grounded. I believe in our justice system since I was lucky enough to have an amazing attorney. Mr Gary Frank, you were a godsend in many ways, and every time I look at my children and know they’re safe I thank God for finding such a great attorney. I would recommend your services to anyone! Thank you once again for all your hard work.
I feel re-born!
“I can’t tell you how much I am now enjoying my life. It sounds crazy, but I feel re-born! Of course, I have my days, but they are fewer and fewer. I spend time with family and friends and for the first time in seven plus years, I feel alive and well. I will never be able to thank you enough for all your caring and encouragement throughout this extremely stressful and challenging time in my life. I could not have managed to get through it without your support.”
A Lawyer That Cares
I chose Hannah to represent me because I know she personally invest herself into each and every client. I could tell she really cared and was ready to fight for me. When I called to schedule for a consult, Hanna received the phone call, not some lawyer’s assistant or front desk person. She has gone above and beyond what was asked of her. She knows what she’s doing. Thank you so much Hanna!
I was going through a family court case & did not have a lawyer. I needed help filling out paperwork & knowing what to do in court. Mr. Frank met with me on several occasions & helped with properly filling out all of my paperwork & informing me of the correct way to file it. He gave me his cell phone # & always returned my calls promptly.
Gary was recommended to me by a relative. I was in a long-term abusive marriage and had had enough and was ready to put an end to it. while being “ready” I was scared to death as I was someone with low self-esteem and so afraid of how my Ex would respond. Gary gave me the courage to stand up for myself and helped me work thru my insecurities so that I was able to testify in court and breath. He walked me through all the steps of what we were going to do so that I understood. he was always ready to answer any questions/concerns I had in a timely manner (and I had a lot). I have recommended Gary to several friends going thru a divorce and I will continue to do so. I can’t thank him enough for his help and what he has done for me.
When you need better than the best
It is all about passion. Whether you play baseball, run a bakery, or practice law, you will do it better if you have passion. Hanna has that passion. She helped guide me through my trying times during my divorce and custody case. Her impeccable professionalism, humanity, and understanding as well as being tough enough to get things done were beyond what I could ever hope for. I couldn’t ask for a better attorney than Hanna. She not only cared about me, she also cared about the well-being of my daughter. I would highly recommend her to anyone.
Gary and Hanna are the most amazing and compassionate attorneys in AZ. They go above and beyond and would highly recommend them to anyone! They work with you and actually care about the well being of your children vs. Money (unlike most others). I cannot thank them enough for what they have done for my own family. Angels.
Thanks From A Confident Dad
Gary, I see your LinkedIn posts every now and then and just wanted to send you a quick note. Wow, the last 6 years have been a whirlwind. I just want to thank you again for the support and guidance you provided to me 6 years ago. It has made a monumental difference in my life. My son’s mother and I made the mutual decision to move (out of state) about a year and a half ago. Ironically, we live in the same neighborhood now, we’ve got our parenting plan at about 50% time each, and we walk him to school. We get along, and it honestly can’t be any better. My son is now in 1st grade, and he has a brother who is a year and a half. In the past 6 years, I’ve evolved from the scared, immature, insecure person who sat in your office to a confident father of two boys. Your input and guidance had a lot to do with that, so, thank you. I do miss Arizona – in due time, hopefully, I’ll be back.
Family Law Client
Successful Relocation Case
To say I am grateful would not be giving you guys enough credit. I am humbled to have found you and blessed beyond words.
Family Law Client
I Know In My Heart I Chose The Right Attorneys To Represent Me
I appreciate all of you and all that you have done on my behalf. Most of all, I appreciate all of your moral support and your faith in me and my intentions. I know in my heart that I chose the “Right Attorneys” to represent me. I am happy that I chose wisely and trusted my heart & my ‘gut instinct.’
November 2009 I retained Mr. Frank for almost two years to represent me in a visitation modification filed by my ex-husband. Mr. Frank quickly and efficiently became familiar with my case and was very honest about all the potential results that could occur. I truly feel that Mr. Frank had my children’s best interests in mind…