Lots of people get confused with the meaning of separation as it relates to family law, and rightly so since there are four types of separations. But it’s crucial to understand the differences if you’re planning getting separated since the specific type of separation you select have different effects on property rights. With this in mind, below are the four kinds of separation:
Living apart means that you no longer live in the same house as your spouse. Depending on the state you’re in, when you live apart without the intention of reuniting, your property rights would likewise change. For instance, some states count debts incurred and property accumulated when spouses are living apart to be considered separate property, while other states consider all property and debt joint until the couple files for divorce, explains a renowned family law attorney in Albuquerque, NM.
This type of separation involves a couple living apart for a trial period to determine whether or not they should remain permanently or legally separate. During this period, even if you do decide to reunite with your spouse, all debts and property you accumulate would still be deemed marital property. Do note though that courts don’t generally recognize trial separations.
Being permanently separated means that you and your spouse have decided to break up permanently. In almost all states, most debts incurred and assets amassed following a permanent separation would be considered separate property, which means that they’d be the legal liability of the spouse who incurred them. But debts incurred following separation would usually be considered joint debts if they were incurred for specific needs, including maintaining the matrimonial house or for childrearing needs. Like all the other types of separation above, a permanent separation won’t be considered legal unless you file for legal separation.
Legal separation occurs when you and your spouse separate and with help from the court, have decided on important matters (the same issues that require resolution in a divorce) including child custody and support, alimony, and property division. While you would be legally separated and free to live your own life without regard to your spouse, your civil status would remain “married”, and you won’t be free to remarry.
Aside from the differences between these types of separations, note that each state also has its laws regarding legal separation, which is the only type of separation that the court deems legal. Bearing this in mind, consult a local family law attorney to discuss your specific situation.