It may be preferable for a couple, in some circumstances, to seek a legal separation rather than a divorce. Legal separation may be a temporary solution for a couple contemplating divorce, but not sure whether divorce is appropriate for them, or it may act as a permanent solution for those for whom a divorce is not possible due to religious or cultural reasons. Whatever your circumstances may be, legal separation is a legally binding agreement that defines the rights and responsibilities of the spouses while they live apart from each other. As such, it is essential that you have an experienced Utah family law attorney on your side.
Grounds For Separation
The State of Utah permits an individual to seek a legal separation if any of the following occur:
- (i) whenever a resident of this state deserts a spouse without good and sufficient cause;
- (ii) whenever a resident of this state being of sufficient ability to provide support, neglects or refuses to properly provide for and suitably maintain that spouse;
- (iii) whenever a resident of this state having property within this state and the spouse being a resident of this state, so deserts or neglects or refuses to provide such support; or
- (iv) whenever a resident of this state where a married person without that person's fault lives separate and apart from that spouse, the district court shall, on the filing of a complaint, allot, assign, set apart and decree as alimony the use of the real and personal estate or earnings of the deserting spouse as the court may determine appropriate.
See Utah Code Ann. § 30-4-1.
Health insurance, child support, and alimony
As long as the spouses remain legally married, any health insurance coverage that was put in place prior to the separation may still be in effect unless it is canceled or a party is removed from the insurance policy.
Because they are still considered married, the individual still has the responsibility to provide support to their spouse and child, whether they are residing together or separately.
Death during Separation
If an unfortunate accident happens, and one of the spouses perish during their separation it can be worrying if you will still be qualified to receive the benefits of inheritance and social security.
In most cases yes, you are still qualified. Couples who are legally separated are still legally married, and therefore entitled to certain benefits in the event that one of the spouses passes away.
With divorce, there is a division of property, including the debt that has been accumulated during the marriage. In contrast, in some situations, a separation may limit a spouse’s exposure to the debts of the other spouse.
However, separated spouses may still bear some responsibility for debts incurred by their spouse prior to the separation and, depending on the wording of the legal separation agreement, even after separation.