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Marriage and Separation Advice
Why a Legal Separation Agreement is in Your Best Interest E-mail

Many people are ambivalent about making their separation legal by filing it in court, much less drawing up a legal separation agreement. For many people, legal separation is a way of testing the waters and seeing if they really want to stay in a marriage or get out of it. For other people, it's a prelude to a divorce. There's no saying what will happen during a legal separation, and there's no saying how long it will last. Drawing up a legal separation agreement with your spouse (what ever your reason is for legally separating) presents financial protection for both of you.

Here are a few of them:

  • Tax purposes - If you are required to pay spousal support while legally separated, you can file this as a tax deduction, like if you are divorced. However, if you only separate without filing this in court to make it a legal separation, any amount of money you give towards spousal support will still be taxable.
  • Retaining some benefits - Depending on the policies that your spouse took out or got from his/her company, being legally separated will still entitle you to some benefits that married couples enjoy. For policies that don't automatically extend coverage to legally separated couples, you could include in the legal separation agreement the requirement to extend coverage at least until you divorce.
  • Financial questions will be settled - Questions about who will shoulder which financial obligations should be settled in a legal separation agreement. Much like how divorce settlements decide early on how things such as mortgage payments, credit card bills payments, utilities, tuition fees, and the likes should be paid. It takes out the grey area which some people knowingly or unknowingly exploit. When people get married, it's rare for couples to keep things separate from each other. Sorting out the financial entanglements you have with each other through outlining conditions in a legal separation agreement makes it easier to detach yourself from the marriage both from a financial and from an emotional point of view. The less time you spend arguing about who pays what, the more time you get to yourself. That's more time to figure out which direction you want to take with the marriage.
  • Protects you from unwanted debts - Not only does a legal separation agreement help separate assets and liabilities, it also shields you from debts that your spouse may incur during the separation. This is especially true if you live in an equitable distribution state. Typically, debts incurred during a marriage could be considered a community debt. Getting a legal separation agreement puts a date on when debts incurred from then on becomes separate.

While people can separate informally, it's always best to file for a legal separation if you feel this is truly a turning point in your marriage, or if you want your rights to be protected while separated. The court can only step in to uphold the terms of the legal separation agreement if the separation was filed in court.

 
Should You Consider Legal Separation as a Divorce Alternative? E-mail

Legal separation can be considered by some people as an acceptable enough alternative if they cannot stay together but for some reason cannot file for divorce yet. There may be some financial issues involved, or they just don't feel like divorce is an option for them at the moment. A couple will be considered legally separated if they live apart and if they petitioned the family court to recognize their separation. Couples cannot be considered legally separated if the court does not recognize it.

During legal separation, it's important to make a separation agreement agreed upon and signed by both you and your spouse. The legal separation agreement, similar to divorce settlements, is a document that details how certain issues will be handled. Issues include but are not restricted to spousal support, child support, living arrangements (who will live in the house, etc.), property division and the likes.

It's best to have an attorney review the separation agreement before you sign anything. After signing, your attorney will make an application to the court for the legal separation to be recognized. You can separate and make an agreement with your spouse informally, but having the court recognize the agreement gives you protection should your spouse be unable or unwilling to live up to the points of the agreement that you made with each other.

Here are also a few helpful pointers should you opt for legal separation:

  • Have your lease contract amended - If you're moving out of your marital home, make sure that you inform your landlord and request for a new tenant lease to be drawn up, without your name in it. This way, should your spouse default in rent payments, you wouldn't have to answer for it.
  • Cancel or freeze joint credit card and bank accounts - If you're legally separating, it's also best to separate your finances. Cancel joint accounts and discuss with your spouse about how you will divide the amount of money in those accounts. Cancel joint credit card accounts and just open up a new account under your name. It's better if you include division of debts in the separation agreement. If you can't pay off the debts immediately to have the account closed or if your spouse doesn't want to agree to cancelling the accounts, freezing the account could also be a viable option.
  • Open a PO box or leave a forwarding address for your mail - If you don't want to have to deal with collecting your mail at the house you shared with your spouse, then you can have all mail forwarded to your new address or temporarily open a PO Box.
  • Get copies of income tax records - As much as possible, get records of taxes paid over the last six years. Keep in mind that the taxes you owe will still need to be paid whether or not you get legally separated or divorced.
  • Check insurance coverage - Some people prefer to be legally separated first before divorcing to make sure that they still have insurance coverage. However, some insurance companies terminate the policy in the event of a legal separation. It's best to review the policy or ask the help of your lawyer to review this so that you can be certain about your insurance coverage. The same thing goes with your pension plans and health benefits.
 
How Should You Behave While Legally Separated? E-mail

In some states, divorce laws require that people be legally separated for a set amount of time before they can file for a divorce. In some cases, people opt for legal separation at first because of the financial repercussions that often come with divorce. Getting the benefits of filing for legal separation can be quite useful for people who have no means (or haven't completely decided) to get a divorce.

Of course, with legal separation as with divorce, a new chapter one's life begins. Legal separation can be quite an iffy place to be at. There's the possibility that the separation can eventually lead to reconciliation. There's also the possibility that it could lead to divorce. At times there are things you do that jeopardizes your wellbeing and interests because you didn't know any better. Here are a few things to consider when filing for legal separation:

  • Keep it private - During a legal separation, emotions can run pretty high. It's very tempting to act on your frustrations and say something bad about your spouse to other people. However, since legal separation can still go either way, it's important you don't engage in behavior that will be harmful both to your spouse and to your children. Should you decide to get back together and reconcile with your spouse, having publicized the sordid details of your separation will have negative effects on your relationship. It makes reconciliation harder to achieve. Should you decide to pursue divorce, on the other hand, you run the risk of making the divorce more contentious than it should be. If you share children with your spouse, then you'll still have to deal with them whether or not you decide to push through with the divorce.
  • Keep your distance - Being legally separated is a sensitive time for you both in terms of legal considerations as well as your emotional well-being. Having sex with your spouse will definitely have emotional drawbacks for both of you, especially if you haven't made up your mind yet whether to stay or go. Having sex while legally separated may also have legal drawbacks especially if you are living in a state where legal separation is a prerequisite for divorce. It's better to keep your distance and use this time to reflect and let yourself heal. It's a time to get adjusted to the idea of not living with your spouse anymore and decide whether you feel this is something you can handle or not.
  • Don't date yet - Being legally separated means that you are still married but you're living separately and some arrangements have been made in terms of separating your finances and such. Dating another person or living with another person during this time may present legal issues such as being sued for adultery.
  • Fulfill promises made in the legal separation agreement - It's best to cooperate with your spouse when forming the legal separation agreement. Whether or not you decide to file for a divorce, holding up your end of the bargain will help you transition from separation to reconciliation or from separation to divorce. Not to mention that you are, of course, legally obligated to follow the separation agreement. Following through with your promises in the legal separation agreement will also help you maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse and children.
  • Pay closer attention to your children - Make setting up visitation schedules your first priority during a legal separation. Legal separation and divorce disrupts your children's lives as much as it disrupts yours. Be very sensitive to your child's needs and go out of your way to spend time and communicate with them as often as possible. If you see signs that your child is not adjusting well to the new living arrangements, consider taking your child to a counselor or a therapist for professional help.
 
Divorce Advice for Women - Is It Really Time to Consider Divorce? E-mail

A lot of people struggle with the thought that their marriage is failing. How do you actually determine whether you're just going through a rough spot in the marriage or whether it's really time to consider divorce? Here are a few questions you may want to ask yourself:

  • Do you often fantasize about a life without your spouse? - While it's normal to think about what your life would be if you were still single, it's another thing entirely to often find yourself wishing you were not married. Thoughts eventually grow into action. If you find yourself thinking too often that you wish you weren't married, maybe you should look into marriage counseling and find out why you're so unhappy about your situation.
  • You think the bad parts of your marriage outnumber the good ones - There can be good and bad times in marriage. The problem is when there are more bad times than there are good. If you find that the good parts of your marriage are becoming few and far between, it's time to take a closer look at it and see if it's time to seek help in confronting your marital issues.
  • You've stopped talking to your spouse - When people stop fighting for their marriage, they stop talking. When your communication has reached an unhealthy point, divorce may be just around the corner.
  • Your sex life is suffering - Maybe the desire for sex has become one-way, or maybe you're both not feeling any need to be physically intimate. If you've stopped having sex, it's indicating that you have a more deep-seated marital problem that needs to be addressed. A marriage without intimacy can quickly turn into a loveless marriage or a marriage of convenience.
  • You've given up trying to solve problems - If you've lost the motivation to solve problems you've been having in the marriage, it may be a sign that you want out. Conversely, if your spouse doesn't show any desire to address the marital issues you've been having, maybe he has given up on the marriage as well.
  • You've started keeping a lot of secrets from your spouse - While you used to share an open and honest relationship before, marital issues may compel you to start keeping secrets from your spouse. Either you just don't tell him things or you intentionally lie to cover up something. Budding trust issues make it impossible for a healthy relationship to survive.

When people think back on their failed relationships, it's hard to pinpoint a specific time when they think the marriage broke down. It's a series of events or things that add up to come to a tipping point. If you see some of the symptoms mentioned above and you still want to work on it, then it's best to consider going to marital therapy or marriage counseling.

 
How to Respond to False Accusations of Child Abuse E-mail
"The stigma that goes with being falsely accused as a child abuser or molester oftentimes follows you around, even in your future career and relationships."

Being involved in a very contentious, conflict-ridden divorce can change your life dramatically. A lot of men end up being falsely accused of abusing their wife. At times, they may even be wrongly accused of physically or even sexually abusing their children. This has serious implications on men's lives everywhere, especially since you may lose custody of your child, or you may even end up in jail for a long time and required to register as a sex offender. Such dirty divorce tactics may be far reaching and may affect you and your prospects of starting a new life and career after divorce. The stigma that goes with being falsely accused as a child abuser or molester oftentimes follows you around, even in your future career and relationships.

Many women make the mistake of employing this dirty divorce tactic because of bad advice from unscrupulous lawyers, or friends who have done the same thing, or from something they read off the internet. It's common divorce tactic that oftentimes take men by surprise much to their disadvantage.

It's best not to take chances and instead take proactive measures to protect yourself from being falsely accused of child abuse.

First thing you should do is to make sure that all medical records pertaining to the health and wellbeing of your child should be correct. These records may be accessible to other people should a case or report be filed against you, so you have to make sure that whatever is on those records are accurate.

Also, you may be invited for a "little meeting" with social services, which you should not just treat as a simple chat. Come prepared. Take a credible witness with you who will vouch for your character and your capability as a parent. Take any pertinent records that will vouch for your child's safety and wellbeing.

A lot of reports of child abuse from social services don't get investigated because of the lack of evidence. If you feel that your case may negatively affect your chances of getting child custody, it's important to consult a lawyer right away. Remember that to beat these kinds of dirty divorce tactics, you have to keep in mind that the court looks at evidence. Gather as much evidence as you can to prove your whereabouts during the time you are being accused of abuse, gather witnesses, and medical records.

You should also consider reporting your spouse to the authorities as well. A person who brainwashes her children to falsely accuse their father of hurting them in any way should be held responsible for corrupting the minds of children. It's essential to remove them in such an environment where they will be used against you at the expense of their own well being.

 

 
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