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Tag: legal separation

What Is the Benefit of a Legal Separation (Separate Maintenance) or a Temporary Separation Order in Utah?

Many people ask what the benefits of a legal separation are. Aside from the obvious “it gives us the option of staying together, if we want to,” are there other reasons the average person might want to separate but not divorce immediately?

I have the same conversation with potential clients who ask whether they “need” or “should get” a legal separation or temporary separation order instead of/before seeking a divorce. I tend to agree with you, i.e., that I see no benefits to legal separations for the majority of people. I’m sure that there is the occasional couple who might benefit from a legal separation or temporary separation order, but I have yet to encounter one. With two (maybe three) exceptions (and one of those ended in suicide), everyone I know who has separated ended up divorcing.

Sometimes separation makes sense if a spouse needs insurance coverage and can’t afford his/her own separate policy (note: some insurance policies require that spouses reside together, so in a situation like that, separation wouldn’t avail a spouse of insurance benefits).

Attorneys who sell separate maintenance or separation orders are, in my experience, doing so to make money, not to solve anyone’s or any couple’s problems.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Have You Ever Regretted a Divorce as Opposed to a Permanent Separation Agreement?

Legal separation vs. divorce. Which is better?

The answer is different for each person confronted with the choice.

For some, separation is preferable to divorce. For others, just the opposite is true.

Separation can be appealing for those who believe that a period of separation may be needed or helpful in the couple’s efforts to reconcile their differences, heal wounds, and salvage their marriage. Some may separate instead of divorcing to obtain some of the benefits of divorce (living separately, having responsibility for marital debts and obligations apportioned between spouses by court order, spousal and child support, etc. without actually dissolving the marriage. Such people may be against divorce because of their religious beliefs, because they want to spare their children the pain and stigma of divorce, or because they need certain benefits they received only through marriage (such as insurance coverage or qualifying to receive trust fund disbursements).

Divorce can be appealing (to the extent is ever appealing) because it enables one to be as free from entanglements with one’s (now ex-) spouse and enables one to remarry and relieves one of the obligations of spouse (although alimony may leave one obligated to provide one’s spouse with financial support for a period of time).

Eric Johnson’s answer to Have you ever regretted a divorce as opposed to a permanent separation agreement? – Quora

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Why are so many attorneys seemingly against legal separation?

Why are so many attorneys seemingly against legal separation? I truly feel in my circumstance its best for me/us. Is it because they wont make as much money? We have already started the divorce process. Can it be switched? 

I can’t speak for all divorce attorneys, and I am not an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois (I practice divorce and family law in Utah), but I can tell you why I personally don’t like going the temporary separation route. 

Too many people divorce needlessly. Too many people divorce only to discover that their spouses and marriages weren’t their problem and/or that divorce wasn’t the solution. I support desires and efforts to save marriage. While legal separation may sound to some like a good way to “get some space” to contemplate whether one should stay married or should divorce, I’ve found that: 

legal separation tends to damage a marriage far more than fostering its survival; and  

by the time one wants a legal separation, he or she really wants a divorce and is only postponing divorce out of fear or laziness or for the sake of appeasing the other spouse or “letter him/her down easy”.  

While I am sure there are people out there whose legal separation proved that “absence makes the hear grow fonder” and helped them “wake up” and realize that their marriage is worth saving, I know no such people. 

If I recall correctly, I’ve seen one legal separation end with the couple later reconciling. In every other legal separation situation, the couple has eventually divorced. So you can see where this is going: why go to the additional trouble, expense, and emotional ordeal of obtaining a legal separation order if you’re going to end up divorcing anyway and having to go through more of the same kind of effort, wait, expense, and pain again? 

I understand the desire to give the marriage every last reasonable opportunity to survive. I understand the desire to take every reasonable effort to save it. But at the same time, I don’t see the point in pouring time, effort, care, and money into what is for most a hopeless cause. **That stated,** I would much rather “waste” time, effort, care, and money on taking every reasonable effort to save my marriage if it meant having the peace of mind that I gave saving my marriage everything I could in an effort to save it before deciding that it was not worth saving or that I alone could not save it and concluding that divorce was the only remaining option. 

Are there divorce lawyers who discourage legal separation because they make (or believe they make) less money working on a legal separation instead of a divorce? I’m sure there are. But not all of us are out to take the client for all he or she is worth (you’d be wise to ensure you don’t hire a greedy lawyer, but there are some among us who are decent, caring, trustworthy professionals worth seeking out). In my experience, if one wants to do all he or she can to save his or her marriage, then working to improve yourself as a spouse, making changes in your family environment, and giving your best efforts to some good marriage counseling are certainly worthwhile. Legal separation rarely, if ever, helps improve a marriage. It tends to weaken and destroy a marriage.  

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

https://www.quora.com/Divorce-in-IL-Why-are-attorneys-against-legal-separation-I-truly-feel-in-my-circumstance-its-best-for-me-us-Is-it-because-they-wont-make-as-much-money-We-have-already-started-the-divorce-process-Can-it-be-switched/answer/Eric-Johnson-311 

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How is the custody going to work after separation?

After filling for legal separation where is my only child going to stay? I have my child with me right now. How is the custody going to work after separation?

The question of what the court will do regarding child custody is premature.

The first question you should ask is 1) “Can the other parent and I reach our own agreement on custodial and visitation (now often called parent time) arrangements?”

And if you and the other parent cannot reach agreement, then the second and third questions you should ask are 2) “What custodial and parent time arrangement is best for the children,” irrespective of what I may desire?” because that’s essentially the question the court will try to answer in fashioning its custody and parent time award; and 3) am I willing to spend thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of dollars to fight over the issues of child custody and parent-time?

If you and your spouse/the other parent can agree on what the custody and parent time schedule will be between you both, then you both don’t need to bring that matter before the court for a temporary order. Far too often parents end up litigating more than they need to because they don’t realize they don’t need to litigate every issue. They don’t realize that they can (and should as much as possible) make agreements and follow those agreements.

That stated, I, as a divorce and family law attorney, am well aware that child custody is frequently (even usually) a bone of contention between parents who are separating or divorcing. Still, even parents that don’t get along may find it in their individual and mutual best interest to reach an agreement over child custody and parent time, instead of placing that decision in the hands of the court.

Before you go to the trouble and expense of litigating temporary child custody and support, it wouldn’t hurt you at all to try and work out an agreement on the subjects with the other parent first. Even if the other parent simply to negotiate or refuses to negotiate in good faith, you can go to court knowing that, for the sake of your kids, you did your best to reach consensus instead of conflict.

Judges don’t know (and thus cannot accommodate) your or your children’s needs nearly as well as you and the other parent do. For all that they say to the contrary, the truth is that judges usually don’t particularly care that much about other people’s children and what’s best for them. They deal with hundreds and thousands of couples and families, so to an extent, you can’t really blame them completely. Judges often have surprisingly obtuse, bizarre, and counterproductive ideas about what the best custodial and parent time arrangements are for children.

So as long as you and the other parent are decent and rational people, you should be able to come up with a custody arrangement that is not only fair to you as parents, but what your children need and deserve. If you and the other parent can’t set aside your own self-interest and posturing for the sake of doing what’s best for your children, then frankly you deserve to have the court impose a child custody and parent time award on you, like it or not.

If you and the other parent cannot reach an agreement regarding child custody and parent time so that the court is left to make that determination, then here are the factors that the courts in Utah (where I practice divorce and family law) consider in analyzing and determining what the child custody and parent time awards shall be:

Utah Code § 30-3-10(2):

(2) In determining any form of custody and parent-time under Subsection (1), the court shall consider the best interest of the child and may consider among other factors the court finds relevant, the following for each parent:

(a) evidence of domestic violence, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse, involving the child, the parent, or a household member of the parent;

(b) the parent’s demonstrated understanding of, responsiveness to, and ability to meet the developmental needs of the child, including the child’s:

(i) physical needs;

(ii) emotional needs;

(iii) educational needs;

(iv) medical needs; and

(v) any special needs;

(c) the parent’s capacity and willingness to function as a parent, including:

(i) parenting skills;

(ii) co-parenting skills, including:

(A) ability to appropriately communicate with the other parent;

(B) ability to encourage the sharing of love and affection; and

(C) willingness to allow frequent and continuous contact between the child and the other parent, except that, if the court determines that the parent is acting to protect the child from domestic violence, neglect, or abuse, the parent’s protective actions may be taken into consideration; and

(iii) ability to provide personal care rather than surrogate care;

(d) in accordance with Subsection (10), the past conduct and demonstrated moral character of the parent;

(e) the emotional stability of the parent;

(f) the parent’s inability to function as a parent because of drug abuse, excessive drinking, or other causes;

(g) whether the parent has intentionally exposed the child to pornography or material harmful to minors, as “material” and “harmful to minors” are defined in Section 76-10-1201;

(h) the parent’s reasons for having relinquished custody or parent-time in the past;

(i) duration and depth of desire for custody or parent-time;

(j) the parent’s religious compatibility with the child;

(k) the parent’s financial responsibility;

(l) the child’s interaction and relationship with step-parents, extended family members of other individuals who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;

(m) who has been the primary caretaker of the child;

(n) previous parenting arrangements in which the child has been happy and well-adjusted in the home, school, and community;

(o) the relative benefit of keeping siblings together;

(p) the stated wishes and concerns of the child, taking into consideration the child’s cognitive ability and emotional maturity;

(q) the relative strength of the child’s bond with the parent, meaning the depth, quality, and nature of the relationship between the parent and the child; and

(r) any other factor the court finds relevant.

Utah Code § 30-3-10.2(2)

(2) In determining whether the best interest of a child will be served by ordering joint legal custody or joint physical custody or both, the court shall consider the custody factors in Section 30-3-10 and the following factors:

(a) whether the physical, psychological, and emotional needs and development of the child will benefit from joint legal custody or joint physical custody or both;

(b) the ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest;

(c) co-parenting skills, including:

(i) ability to appropriately communicate with the other parent;

(ii) ability to encourage the sharing of love and affection; and

(iii) willingness to allow frequent and continuous contact between the child and the other parent, except that, if the court determines that the parent is acting to protect the child from domestic violence, neglect, or abuse, the parent’s protective actions may be taken into consideration; and

(d) whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce;

(e) the geographical proximity of the homes of the parents;

(f) the preference of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to joint legal custody or joint physical custody or both;

(g) the maturity of the parents and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents;

(h) the past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly; and

(i) any other factor the court finds relevant.

Utah Code § 30-3-34. Parent-time — Best interests — Rebuttable presumption.

(1) If the parties are unable to agree on a parent-time schedule, the court may establish a parent-time schedule consistent with the best interests of the child.

(2) The advisory guidelines as provided in Section 30-3-33 and the parent-time schedule as provided in Sections 30-3-35 and 30-3-35.5 shall be presumed to be in the best interests of the child unless the court determines that Section 30-3-35.1 should apply. The parent-time schedule shall be considered the minimum parent-time to which the noncustodial parent and the child shall be entitled unless a parent can establish otherwise by a preponderance of the evidence that more or less parent-time should be awarded based upon one or more of the following criteria:

(a) parent-time would endanger the child’s physical health or mental health, or significantly impair the child’s emotional development;

(b) evidence of domestic violence, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse, involving the child, a parent, or a household member of the parent;

(c) the distance between the residency of the child and the noncustodial parent;

(d) a credible allegation of child abuse has been made;

(e) the lack of demonstrated parenting skills without safeguards to ensure the child’s well-being during parent-time;

(f) the financial inability of the noncustodial parent to provide adequate food and shelter for the child during periods of parent-time;

(g) the preference of the child if the court determines the child is of sufficient maturity;

(h) the incarceration of the noncustodial parent in a county jail, secure youth corrections facility, or an adult corrections facility;

(i) shared interests between the child and the noncustodial parent;

(j) the involvement or lack of involvement of the noncustodial parent in the school, community, religious, or other related activities of the child;

(k) the availability of the noncustodial parent to care for the child when the custodial parent is unavailable to do so because of work or other circumstances;

(l) a substantial and chronic pattern of missing, canceling, or denying regularly scheduled parent-time;

(m) the minimal duration of and lack of significant bonding in the parents’ relationship before the conception of the child;

(n) the parent-time schedule of siblings;

(o) the lack of reasonable alternatives to the needs of a nursing child; and

(p) any other criteria the court determines relevant to the best interests of the child.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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