When a marriage runs into trouble, many couples choose to separate while they consider whether or not to divorce. This kind of informal separation simply means the couple is no longer living together.
A legal separation is one that is recognized by the court. In Minnesota, it is commenced by serving a petition on the other spouse and filing it with the court. In a legal separation, the court will decide many of the issues that would be decided in a divorce case, including child custody, child support and alimony. The parties can also request a court order on property division. A couple that is legally separated remains legally married.
For most couples there is little advantage to getting a legal separation. In Minnesota it is not necessary to get a legal separation before getting a divorce. The process of obtaining a legal separation in Minnesota is not faster than the process of getting a divorce; it can take as long or longer. It can also cost as much as a divorce. The main reason some people get legal separations in Minnesota is because of religious prohibitions on divorce, or because there is a financial advantage to the couple remaining legally married.
If a couple decides to separate informally, it can be to a spouse’s advantage to speak to a family law attorney, especially if children are involved. The couple will have to reach agreement on custody, parenting time and child support. They will also have to reach an understanding as to how they will handle their finances while they live apart. And if divorce is on the horizon, it is important not to make any agreements during the separation process that could complicate the divorce proceedings.
Source: Minnesota Judicial Branch, “Annulment and Legal Separation: Separation v. Divorce,” accessed Nov. 4, 2016