Protecting Your Rights during Legal Separation
Like a divorce, a legal separation, or separate maintenance, as it is called in Utah, provides couples with the opportunity to live apart while dissolving their marital obligations to each other. The main difference between divorce and statutory separation is that the couple is still technically married and unable to remarry until the divorce becomes final. But, just as with divorce, both parties must protect their own rights and interests during the proceedings.
The Right to Support
If your spouse was the primary breadwinner during the marriage, you may have the right to spousal support or alimony. A judge will determine the need for alimony by looking at the needs of each spouse and at each person’s ability to provide for him or herself. Any alimony that is awarded during a legal separation may be considered temporary support, intended to help you get on your feet after the end of the marriage, and may not continue after divorce.
If the family includes minor children, the parent with whom they live during the separation may have the right to obtain child support from the other parent; however, both parents are legally responsible for financially supporting their minor children. If child support is deemed necessary in your separation case, the judge will issue a court order to obligate your spouse to pay.
The Right to Assets
Neither spouse can sell or encumber real estate or other valuable joint property during a statutory separation. If you want to protect your right to important assets of the marriage, legal experts advise you to gather pertinent financial documents for your attorney, including investment and retirement account information, property records and tax returns. It is also wise to document valuables and family heirlooms so that they do not end up falling into the wrong hands after the separation is finalized.
The Right to Debt Resolution
Debts are incurred during most marriages, and you will likely be required to share in paying a portion of these marital debts when you file for a legal separation. But unless you protect your rights, you may end up paying some of your spouse’s debts as well. The court may have difficulty determining whether debts are marital and should be shared or if they are the responsibility of one spouse. It is essential to provide documentation that adequately demonstrates that individual debts, such as a car loan or credit card, are solely the responsibility of your spouse.
Legal separation proceedings can bring up a variety of issues regarding the rights and obligations of the parties. If you need assistance preparing your case and protecting your rights in court, contact the experienced professional attorneys at Burton Law Firm in Ogden, Utah, to schedule a no-obligation consultation and review of your legal separation case.