How Much Does a Legal Separation Cost?
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Legal separation is a softer option as compared to divorce. It is an ideal option for the couples who have certain religious affiliations which do not allow or frown upon the concept of divorce. Couples who have been married for a long time and have a considerable joint property as well as minor children can also consider legal separation instead of divorce.
How much does a legal separation cost is a question asked mostly by the couples who are in a doubt whether to file for a divorce or legal separation. As mentioned above, legal separation is an easier option that is it is more flexible as compared to divorce. The basic difference between divorce and legal separation is that after a divorce is granted all the ties are severed whereas after a legal separation is granted, the couple remains married in spite of being legally separated.
Why Couples Opt for Legal Separation?
Many couples now-a-days opt for legal separation for social, religious and financial reasons. There is a social stigma attached with being divorced and all religions do not permit divorce. There are many financial reasons why couple prefer legal separation rather than divorce.
These reasons are as follows:
In a legal separation, reconciliation always remains an option and the couple can have some time to reflect on the causes and consequences of their separation which may lead them to reconcile instead of opting for divorce. Besides, legal and financial complexities are more in divorce cases then in separation cases.
- Health Insurance – Legally separated couples are entitled to avail insurance coverages in case of emergency or extra-ordinary health-care, which a partner may require and may not be able to afford.
- Social Security Benefits – The couples who are married for 10 years and more are entitled to avail social security benefits on each other's social security card.
- Military Benefits – The couples who are married for 10 years can avail military benefits on their spouse's postings.
Legal Separation Costs:
There are various costs incurred while fighting a legal battle. However, there are ways to keep a tab on these costs and have beneficial and amicable legal separation rather than fighting bitter legal battles.
The costs incurred in a case of legal separation are as follows:
These are some of the default costs one has to bear when one decides to opt for legal separation. However, these are much less then the cost of divorce and it can remain in control of the parties if they reach an amicable separation and settlement agreement.
- Court Fees - The court fees are associated with filing the petition at the local county court, sending the summons to the respondent, receiving the response and then processing the case according to the response. These fees vary state to state and the longer the case, the higher the charges levied by the court. The payment of these charges depends upon the earning capacity of both the parties. If one of the spouse is entirely dependent on the other spouse, the court can direct the independent spouse to bear the charges.
One can download the forms from the official website of the concerned state and fill it instead of buying them from the county court and hiring an attorney. Besides, in the states which do not recognize the provision of legal separation, one does not need to file the petition or carry out the relevant process. In such states, one just has to prepare a settlement agreement and get it approved form the court.
- Attorney Fees - A major chunk of the cost of legal separation goes into attorney fees. Some attorneys charge retainer fee before taking on the case. Afterwards, they charge either on the hourly basis or the seating basis. Some attorneys also have telephonic consultations which cost more than these other sessions.
The main responsibility of an attorney is to prepare the settlement agreement, get it notarized and signed by both the parties. In the states which do not recognize the provision of legal separation, the attorneys just have to review the settlement agreement which couple have agreed on mutually. However, as legal separation is uncommon, the charges vary according to the type of settlement agreement. The experienced attorneys charge more than their inexperienced counterparts. So, more the experience, higher the attorney fees.
- Nature of the Case - In case of a legal separation suit, the control of the case remains in the hands of the parties if they have already agreed on the terms and conditions of the childcare, property division and other marital issues. In most cases, the court approves the notarized agreement. However, if there are conflicts regarding some of the provisions and the agreement is not signed by both the parties, the court has to intervene which increases the costs of custody issues and property division.
If the case is solved amicably, the cost is much less; whereas if the court has to intervene and make decisions, the cost increases as the parties have to hire attorneys to fight the legal battles and sort out other issues.