The Difference Between a Legal Separation and Dissolution

Legal separations can be used in several different situations for Indiana spouses. Generally speaking, separations allow spouses maintain the marriage while living separately with rules regarding expenses, parenting time, custody or other domestic matters. A legal separation is a good option if the relationship needs a “cooling off” period, if there is opportunity for reconciliation, religious concerns, or even if one partner needs to leave the home for medical reasons and Medicaid benefits.

Legal separations are also used in the period of time leading up to an official dissolution. They provide an initial framework while the parties are working out the final terms of the divorce. Decrees of Dissolution remain in effect for only one year, so if you see yourself heading for dissolution of the marriage, the legal separation action should be converted prior to the anniversary of the entry of the Decree of Dissolution by the Court.

In both a separation and dissolution, a decree is issued. The decree is the official document that outlines the parameters, or rules, that the parties will abide by. Because a separation maintains the marriage, it is a more flexible option and gives the parties flexibility in working out the terms of the decree, as well as the option to reconcile or move toward dissolution.

In dissolution, the action is final and permanent. Once the decree is issued, both parties must live by the terms and there is no opportunity to reconcile.

If you are considering a divorce, a legal separation is a good place to start.It allows you to be separated, while also laying out a framework for what each party is responsible for. In some cases, reconciliation happens after the separation. If not, you’ll already have a head start on the dissolution of the marriage and can move forward quickly.

My Story: Why Having a Will is Important

Wills and estate planning are important steps to protecting your family in Indiana when unexpected events happen.

After more than 20 years of marriage, my first husband passed away at the age of 43. As a new widow, I was left with three children, a home, and everything that came with probating his will. Fortunately, as an attorney, we had a will, actually a family trust, in place. We had named guardians and a trustee. Generally, we were well prepared which made things fairly easy to work through.

We never think that we will become a widow, or a widower, or that we will leave our children as orphans. Its uncomfortable to think about.

We live in a society where travel a lot, we’re in traffic, and illnesses occur. It is important to have a plan. Know where your assets will go. Know how you want your money spent and who will spend it. Know who will take care of your children. Plan to make the best of a bad situation, and don’t leave it to the Indiana courts to decide.

You’ve Got Your Decree! – Here are Some Suggestions for Tying up Loose Ends.

So, you’re there!  You’re divorced!  You take a look at the final Decree, and breathe a sigh of relief.  But, here are a few suggestions to make sure all of those pesky loose ends of tied up neatly.

If as a part of the Decree, you have been awarded a division of retirement accounts, make sure the accounts are actually transferred to your individual account, set aside in your individual name, or reserved in your name for distribution at a future date pursuant to the plan.  If the plan is a “qualified plan,” such as a 401(k) or pension, follow up with your attorney within 60 days to make sure the appropriate Qualified Domestic Relations Orders have been sent to the plan administrator.  [Beware:  QDROs may take several months to be approved by the plan administration, so calendar follow up dates every three months until confirmation that the account has been transferred is received.]