Should I File for Legal Separation or Divorce?

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A Scottsdale divorce attorney explains the benefits of legal separation vs. divorce.

It depends on your marital situation, your needs and your goals for the future. Understanding some of the most common pros and cons to legal separation in Arizona can shed some more light on whether legally separating or filing for divorce may be a better option for you.

Legal Separation in Arizona: The Benefits

Some of the various benefits that couples may enjoy when they pursue a legal separation, rather than a divorce, in Arizona include:

  • Financially separating from a partner – A legal separation will involve dividing a couple’s marital property, including their assets and debts. Following the legal separation, any new assets or debts either party acquires will not be in his or her name only (so long as all joint lines of credit have been closed). This aspect of legal separations reflects the financial separation that also comes with divorce, and it can be particularly beneficial when, for instance, either partner may have serious debt or gambling problems.
  • Preserving certain benefits and/or insurance coverage – In some situations, legally separation can allow partners to maintain benefits or coverage under an ex’s policy. Of course, the terms of policies can vary from provider to provider, so it’s important to review those provisions if maintaining certain coverage is important to you in a legal separation.
  • Preserving certain religious beliefs – In Arizona, couples who legally separate will still be officially married. For those who hold religious beliefs that do not condone divorce, this can be another benefit of legal separation, as it can provide an alternative to divorce that doesn’t violate their religion. For others, this can end up meaning that legal separation may be an interim step to divorce, allowing couples to test out what a divorce would be like before they pull the trigger on the marriage.
Legal Separation in Arizona: The Potential Drawbacks
  • Terminating community property rights – Partners who legally separate in Arizona will lose their community property rights under Colorado law. This may be a downside to legal separation if, for instance, one partner is ill and maintaining survivorship rights is important.
  • Not being able to remarry – Given that legally separated couples are not officially divorced, these people are not legally allowed to remarry. This can leave some people in limbo if they want to move forward with another relationship, presenting another possible drawback to legal separation over divorce.
Legal Separation in Arizona: More Important Information
  • If either party objects to the legal separation, the court will hear the case as a divorce case – In other words, both partners in a couple have to agree to the legal separation in order for the court to grant it. The partners do not, however, have to agree on the issues of the legal separation (e.g., how the marital property is divided or how custody is awarded); and when disputes of those issues arise, the process of legal separation can proceed similarly to a divorce case (i.e., the court will step in to resolve the issues).
  • Legal separations will remain in place until couples take additional action – And the additional action would be to either rescind the separation (to reinstate the marriage) or to convert the legal separation into a divorce.
Contact Scottsdale Divorce Attorney Karen A. Schoenau

When you need exceptional representation in an Arizona legal separation or divorce case, you can rely on Scottsdale Divorce Attorney Karen Schoenau.

To receive professional advice and learn more about how we can help you, schedule an initial consultation with Attorney Karen Schoenau. You can set up this meeting by calling 480-209-1918or by emailing us using the drop-down contact form at the top of this page.

From her offices based on Scottsdale, Attorney Karen Schoenau represents clients throughout the metropolitan Scottsdale area, including in Scottsdale, Mesa, Surprise, Maricopa County, Pinal County, Gila County and throughout the state of Arizona.

Client Reviews
Karen is highly respected in the legal community. She is effective and thorough. Karen just keeps going regardless of the odds.
Karen was extremely helpful setting up my petition for conciliation. She is by far the most knowledgeable attorney regarding the necessary paperwork, how to file the petition and where it has to be submitted. She listened intently when I was describing my situation and intentions. She was very responsive to my questions and request. She is trustworthy and diligent . I would recommend her to anyone having marital issues. Mark
Very high customer/client considerate. We found Karen when we were forced to leave another Phoenix lawyer due to his bad advice and lack of interest to help us. We were in Phoenix for six days from Michigan with nothing happening but a high wasted expense. Karen and her firm took us in and solved our issue with the courts etc. in two and a half days. Karen’s professionalism with us was very cost effective/productive. If we would have found her first, we would have saved thousands of dollars. Her interest for us was very high. She returned every call. She knew every answer to our questions. She did this for us with a death in her family. She left for a funeral and made sure we were treated with the same professionalism from her firm to finish up. I recommend Karen and her firm with very high satisfaction. Our case is custody with one parent in prison. We will return to Phoenix someday with interests for the child and his parent, if needed. Karen will be our top choice. Nolan
Karen and Bonita are wonderful!! I know that the word "wonderful" is used a lot, but the team they make and the work they did for me can only be described as WONDERFUL!! Yes there where ups and downs in my case, but that is the system and Karen along with Bonita guided and taught me as "WE" went through it together. Karen’s easy going manner and her knowledge really helped me with the emotional part of my divorce. I used the team of Karen and Bonita both times I needed to go to court with my ex and had results that were best for my little girl. Some times I did not get what I wanted, but it was what my daughter needed. Looking back at my case, I made the right choice and would do it again in a heart beat!! Jim
Karen was extremely supportive during a very trying time in our lives. She helped me to put things in perspective and think positive when I was overwhelmed. She is very knowledgeable about the laws pertaining to grandparents rights and the rights of the parents and knew how to provide the appropriate laws pertaining to the situation we were in. I am so grateful for her expertise and guidance. She proved to be very aggressive when she needed to be but was also supportive to my and my children. I would recommend her to anyone in a similar situation. Deanna