What is a legal separation?
A lot of confusion exists about the terms “separation” and “legal separation” under Minnesota law. While both refer to a change in marital status, they have distinct meanings, processes, and consequences.
“Separation” means only that you are living in different residences. Minnesota law allows spouses to live separately while still married. Separation works best if the ongoing responsibilities for care of the children, financial support, and bill payment have been discussed and agreed upon. While separation does not involve a legal proceeding, there may be legal consequences to living apart. Therefore, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney before separating to better understand your options.
“Legal separation” does require court involvement. In fact, in Minnesota a proceeding for legal separation is very similar to one for divorce. While the law does not require that divorcing couples live separately, parenting time, child support, and spousal maintenance must be addressed in the final court order. A legal separation can also include the division of assets and debts. The major difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that after becoming legally separated you and your spouse are still married to each other. Because the cost, timing and issues involved are similar to a divorce, it is much less common. Couples who do legally separate usually do so due to religious beliefs against divorce. Because a number of detailed legal documents must be drafted, signed, and filed with the court, a lawyer’s help is essential if you decide to seek a legal separation.
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