A Legal Separation is allowed in the State of Ohio, however it is a very uncommon practice. We often receive calls from potential clients asking if they are legally separated because they are living separate from their spouses and have a signed written agreement. The simple answer is NO. While the signed agreement you have with your spouse may be later determined to be binding against you and your spouse, you are not legally separated until you file a Complaint for Legal Separation in the county in which you have resided for at least 90 days. Typically, the parties are in an agreement to obtain a Legal Separation and they attach a copy of the Separation Agreement to the initial filing. The Legal Separation is only binding after the Court issues a Final Decree of Legal Separation.
While uncommon, there are some reasons why clients may wish to seek a legal separation. Their religion affiliation may prevent them from seeking a divorce or terminating the marriage. They may simply not know if they want to terminate a marriage, however they wish to have the security of legally dividing the marital assets and liabilities or enter into the structure of a parenting plan. Unfortunately, because of the very nature of the process of completing a Legal Separation, many times the parties end up with a divorce.
If you remove the religious or personal reasons why you would seek a legal separation, you are left with having to complete the same exact process required to file and complete a divorce. During this legal separation you and your spouse must fully disclose and agree upon the division of assets and liabilities and then address parenting and support if there are children involved. Often times, once the parties engage in these difficult topics, they find themselves embroiled in a disagreement which results in converting the legal separation into a Divorce. Either party may convert or file a divorce if they decide that they wish to terminate their marriage during the negotiation or hearing process.
There are benefits to completing a legal separation. First, a legal separation will allow for the stability of dividing assets and liabilities. The parties may agree upon spousal and child support amounts and the division of retirement benefits. The parties may decide to continue to file joint tax returns and receive the benefit of coverage on the others’ health insurance plans. We will certainly discuss whether a legal separation is right for your situation during our consultation.