When couples part ways, it isn’t as easy as just separating. There are so many complications involved: legal marriage contract, children, inheritance, and sometimes the pressure of family and society too.
Couples often go for legal separation before they end up getting divorced. A separation phase is when the two people are legally married to one another, but live and function separately. They will have contact with the child, may be eligible for inheritance from one another, and may also come together later in life.
Divorce however is the legal end to a marriage; the relationship is officially deemed over and the couple no longer has anything to do with each other. They are free to remarry and move on with their lives on their own terms.
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Reasons For Legal Separation
There are many reasons why couples choose to opt for legal separation. There have been cases where spouses decide to leave each other right after they get married, or even after 30 years of marriage when the kids are all grown up and independent. Either way, they do it because they no longer feel compatible with each other.
Here are reasons why couples may want to opt for legal separation.
They don’t want to divorce: One reason can be that couples may be indecisive whether they are ready to leave their partners forever. Divorce can be a taboo in many societies and because of religious boundaries too, people consider divorce as their last option. This is one major reason why couples choose to get legally separated instead.
Children: When children are young at a tender age, especially when they’re teenagers, parents understand how divorce can affect their children. What they do is get separated until their children grow up and get a divorce. When at that later stage they decide to remarry too, their children are mature enough to handle changes.
Tax benefits: Being married gives certain tax benefits to couples, and to keep availing this, couples choose to get legally separated instead of getting divorced.
Avoiding court complications: Getting a divorce can lead to complications with the court and the case. The best way some couples feel is to go for a legal separation without having to file anything making matters more messy and complicated.
Debt separation: During the time of the legal separation, it will be clear that any debt that the person acquires will solely be their responsibility and will not transcend to the other person.
Do you have to file for a Legal Separation?
If you want your separation to be legal and want to know how the relationship is outlined further, you have to make sure everything is written down and compiled legally.
To file for a legal separation, you need to know the state requirements. You may hire an attorney to do so, or check online from the official government website. Then you fill in the forms and file them by paying a small registration fee of approximately $430- the figure varies from state to state.
When you file the separation agreement, make sure it covers all aspects of the relationship such as child custody, asset division, child support, marital assets, debts, conditions like dating other people etc. If both agree upon it mutually, then only the agreement is filed.
After both spouses sign the agreement, the judge reviews it and notarizes it. Once it is set, the court clerk will put it in the records, and make sure you keep a copy of it with you. You must follow it and be careful not to violate any clauses from the legal separation agreement.
Automatic Divorce after long Separation
There is no such thing as an automatic divorce.
Often people ask, ‘how long can you be legally separated?’
Forever if both of you choose to. There is no time limit for how long a couple can stay legally separated. But usually after being legally separated for 3 years, most couples choose to divorce each other and move on with their lives.
There is no automatic divorce unless it is proceeded with formally. To file for a divorce, you must go through the whole official process of it and confirm the end to your marital relationship.
How much does a Divorce cost?
On average, a divorce costs $15,000 per person. This includes lawyer fees, court fees, child custody evaluator etc, and all other costs that may come with the situation.
Attorneys alone charge more than $1,000 for a case from each person in an uncontested divorce, where both parties agree on the decision and division of assets. If the situation is of a contested divorce where there is constant dispute about general matters, attorney fees start with $2,500 and may be even higher depending on each case.
There are several other factors that determine the cost of divorce such as:
- Time limit- usually divorces are finalized in 4 to 11 months, but if a trial is needed, it could stretch up to more than a year.
- If the divorce is contested or uncontested
- The hourly rate of lawyers versus a retainer fee
- The location where the divorce is being filed, and the local filing fees
- Child custody
- Child custody evaluation
Cost of Divorce in different States
Like mentioned above, the cost of divorce may vary depending upon what state you’re in. Here is a list of what fees and charges you may expect. The rates may slightly differ depending on each individual case and the year they’re filing in.
|State||Average Filing Fees||Other Divorce Costs and Attorney Fees|
|Alabama||$400 ($50 administrative fee included)||Average fees: $10,000|
|Alaska||$250 (additional $75 fee to file a modification for child custody, visitation, or support, or for spousal maintenance or property division)||Average fees: $10,000+|
|Arizona||$280||Average fees: $10,000+|
|Arkansas||$165||Average fees: $8,000+|
|California||$435 (Ask for a fee waiver)||Average fees: $14,000|
|Colorado||$230||Average fees: $11,000+|
|Connecticut||$360 (excluding paternity legal action)||Average fees: $12,000+|
|Delaware||$165||Average fees: $12,000+|
|District of Columbia (Washington D.C.)||$80||Average fees: $10,000|
|Florida||$409 (Cost changes per county. Example from Duval County Circuit.)||Average fees: $10,000+|
|Georgia||$400||Average fees: $11,000+|
|Hawaii||$215 (without minor children), $265 (with minor children)||Average fees: $9,000+|
|Idaho||$154 (without minor children), $207 (with minor children)||Average fees: $8,000+|
|Illinois||$334 (District specific fees. This example is from Lake County Circuit.)||Average fees: $10,000+|
|Indiana||$157||Average fees: $9,000|
|Iowa||$185||Average fees: $9,000+|
|Kansas||$400||Average fees: $8,000+|
|Kentucky||$148 (without an attorney), $153 (with an attorney)||Average fees: $8,000+|
|Louisiana||$150 to $250||Average fees: $10,000|
|Maine||$120||Average fees: $8,000+|
|Maryland||$165||Average fees: $11,000|
|Massachusetts||$200||Average fees: $12,000+|
|Michigan||$175 (without minor children), $255 (with minor children) (District specific fees. This example is from the Wayne County Circuit.)||Average fees: $10,000+|
|Minnesota||$365||Average fees: $9,000|
|Mississippi||$400||Average fees:: $8,000+|
|Missouri||$133.50 (without minor children), $233.50 (with minor children) (District specific fees. This example is from Jefferson County Circuit.)||Average fees: $10,000+|
|Montana||$170||Average fees: $6,000+|
|Nebraska||$158||Average fees: $8,000+|
|Nevada||$217 (first appearance), $299 (joint petition)||Average fees: $10,000+|
|New Hampshire||$400||Average fees: $9,000+|
|New Jersey||$300||Average fees: $12,000+|
|New Mexico||$137||Average fees: $6,500+|
|New York||$335||Average fees: $13,500+|
|North Carolina||$75 (absolute divorce), $150 (for civil cases in district court)||Average fees: $10,000+|
|North Dakota||$80||Average fees: $8,000+|
|Ohio||$350 (District specific fees. This example is from the Washington County Circuit.)||Average fees: $9,000+|
|Oklahoma||$183||Average fees: $9,000+|
|Oregon||$301||Average fees: $10,000|
|Pennsylvania||$201.75||Average fees: $11,000+|
|Puerto Rico||$400||Average fees: $10,000|
|Rhode Island||$400||Average fees: $10,000+|
|South Carolina||$150||Average fees: $10,000|
|South Dakota||$95||Average fees: $8,500+|
|Tennessee||$184.50 (without minor children), $259.50 (with minor children)||Average fees: $9,500+|
|Texas||$300 (depending on child support or custody factors)||Average fees: $12,500|
|Utah||$325||Average fees: $10,400|
|Vermont||$90 (if you are a resident of the state), $295 (without a stipulation)||Average fees: $9,000|
|Virginia||Use this calculator to find your district’s fees.||Average fees: $11,500|
|Washington||$314||Average fees: $10,000+|
|West Virginia||$134||Average fees: $8,000+|
|Wisconsin||$184.50 (with no child support or alimony), $194.50 (with child support or alimony)||Average fees: $8,500+|
|Wyoming||$85 (District specific fees. This example is from Laramie County Circuit.)||Average fees: $9,000|
Note: Sample rates have been extracted online, courtesy of FamilyFindLaw.
Many couples go through messy divorces which may cost them so much money, time and effort. So instead, most of them choose to get legally separated which is cheaper and has less complications too.
The cost of divorce depends on each state separately, so if you’re looking to see how much it may cost you, go through the table posted above!