Legal Separation in Alabama: An Alternative to Divorce
For many married couples in Alabama it is clear love is lost and that it is time to go separate ways. What is less clear is the appropriate way in which to end the relationship. Most couples that want to end their marriage simply opt for a divorce. But for some, saying “I do” means keeping the marriage together—at least officially.
Legal separation is a common alternative to divorce in Alabama. It allows couples to end their relationship, but not terminate their marriage. Besides the marital union remaining intact, legal separation operates much like divorce—that is, most legal connections between the parties are severed. For instance, the earnings and income of parties after entry of a separation decree are no longer considered marital property. This separate property will not be subject to division if the parties later choose to divorce.
Why Do Some Couples Choose Separation Over Divorce?
Couples in Alabama that elect for legal separation over divorce do so for any number of reasons. In many cases, it is a combination of two or more. The following is a list of some of the more common reasons parties choose legal separation in Alabama:
- Religious beliefs – Alabama is a deeply religious state positioned in the heart of the Bible Belt. Some couples here choose legal separation over divorce because their church heavily discourages the latter. Legal separation, then, is a means of ending the relationship but maintaining religious acceptance.
- Health insurance – For many couples, health insurance benefits are tied to a spouse’s employment. Coverage is extended to the other spouse by virtue of marriage. When the marriage terminates, so too does the spousal coverage. Some parties choose legal separation so health insurance benefits are not cut off for their spouse.
- Social security – Among other requirements, spouses can receive social security benefits from the other’s work record so long as their marriage lasted at least 10 years. Couples who legally separate before 10 years of marriage are still considered married for social security purposes, and therefore do not run afoul of the 10 year rule.
- Possible reconciliation – Some couples who are unsure whether divorce is the answer try legal separation first. It provides the parties with a chance to consider their feelings and later decide whether their marriage can be saved.
If you are concerned whether divorce or legal separation is right for you, contact Lana Hawkins at The Hawkins Law Firm to learn more. Ms. Hawkins is a trusted family law attorney serving in Guntersville, Huntsville, and Arab, Alabama.