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The financial advantages of legal separation over divorce

When contemplating the end of a marriage, couples in Washington often feel emotionally overwhelmed. This can make decisions about a variety of issues, such as spousal support and child custody, more difficult. Where emotions are sometimes the least helpful are in considerations of finances after a couple parts ways. Divorce requires permanent decisions about an array of financial issues, but legal separation can help a couple avoid certain financial burdens while allowing both spouses to live apart.

One financial advantage of legal separation is that it does not require one spouse to relinquish his or her share of Social Security benefits from the other spouse, as long as the couple was married for at least 10 years, the spouse has not re-married and is 62 years or age or older. A spouse can also continue receiving health insurance benefits if the insurance provider recognizes and accepts the differences between legal separation and divorce.

A spouse can claim tax benefits if there is a joint filing because the couple is still considered legally married. This means they still qualify for tax benefits. Also, certain military benefits can be retained if a couple chooses to legally separate rather than divorce.

However, more than the financial considerations, Washington couples may choose legal separation for a variety of reasons. Some religions frown on divorce, so a legal separation is an acceptable arrangement. Couples can also use legal separation to work out their issues. If two people still love each other and want to continue their marriage, they can get back together more easily. However, if they finally decide to part, then legal separation can serve as a good transition to divorce.

Source: Forbes, "Legal Separation or Divorce: Which is Better Financially?" Jeff Landers, Jan. 1, 2012

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