What Are the Pros and Cons of Legal Separation?

There are financial and non-financial pros and cons of legal separation according to divorce expert Cathy Meyer and legal writer Michelle Fabio. A legal separation gives both spouses the ability to live separately without losing the financial and social benefits of a married couple.

Legal separation affords a couple financial benefits and space to reconsider before a definitive divorce, states Meyer. For a spouse who cannot afford health insurance, staying married allows him or her to stay covered under the other spouses’ work-related health insurance. There are also some tax benefits for filing jointly as married in income tax returns. And finally, legal separation gives a couple an opportunity to work through their issues while living separately.

The negative side of legal separation includes sharing debt with the spouse, the possibility of one spouse paying more alimony, and estate disputes, adds Fabio. In some states, debt is shared by married couples. And when one falls behind in credit card debt, both spouses' credit rating may be affected. Also, one spouse could end up paying higher alimony payments due to an increase on his or her wealth during the separation when the couple eventually divorces . And lastly, both forfeit the ability to remarry as a legally separate but still married couple.