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December 16, 2016

Often clients come into our office asking about the difference between obtaining a legal separation and obtaining a dissolution of marriage, the term used in Connecticut for a divorce. The common misconception is that a legal separation can be obtained more quickly, efficiently, and inexpensively than a divorce. The only significant difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that parties to a legal separation are not permitted to get remarried, but the parties pursuing a legal separation have to go through the same process as they would if they were pursuing a divorce, including the time and fees required to accomplish same.

There are two common reasons that top divorce attorneys in Greenwich, Westport, Stamford, Darien, and New Canaan encounter for clients seeking a legal separation over a dissolution of marriage. The first most common reason is that the parties may be unwilling to seek a dissolution of marriage for religious reasons, but may be unwilling to continue to live together or rely upon an informal agreement for living apart.

The second most common reason that clients seek a legal separation over a dissolution of marriage has to do with benefit coverage. Health insurance, pension, or other benefit coverage are typically only available to the spouses of plan participants. Continued coverage is not afforded to the former spouses of plan participants beyond the statutorily required conversion period (i.e. COBRA), which can be quite costly. Accordingly, if neither party has plans to get remarried, a legal separation rather than a dissolution of marriage, may provide a vehicle for dividing assets and living separately without having to sacrifice insurance coverage, survivor entitlements, or other benefits to the dependent spouse. However, many insurance or other benefit plans view a legal separation in the same manner as a dissolution of marriage for purposes of coverage, so parties contemplating a legal separation for the purpose of extending benefit coverage should carefully review the specific plan first in order to determine whether this outcome can be achieved.

In some cases, the parties enter into a legal separation and later one or both of them decide that they want to get remarried. In such cases, the parties would have to convert the decree of legal separation to a decree of dissolution. In order to be entitled to such a conversion, the parties cannot have resumed marital relations since the date of the decree of legal separation. Once this threshold requirement has been met, one of the parties must petition the court to covert the legal separation to a decree of dissolution. The court must then determine whether or to what extent the terms of the legal separation agreement will be imported into the decree of dissolution. In doing so, the court will take into account whether the circumstances have changed since the original separation took place. For example, if one or both parties’ income has changed since the time they entered into the legal separation agreement, the child support and/or alimony may have to be recalculated before converting the agreement to a divorce.

The attorneys at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie, LLC have the experience necessary to advise you on whether a legal separation or a divorce is the best choice for you.

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