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Serving Iowa Families Statewide

Can I Stay Legally Separated Indefinitely?

Most states in the U.S. recognize legal separation, but it should not be thought of as a light version of divorce. The process can be just as emotionally difficult as divorce. The questions that must be answered in legal separation are often just as challenging. That said, there are circumstances in which legal separation is in the best interest of the involved parties.

Legal Separation in Iowa

In many ways, the process and results of legal separation are the same as divorce. Iowa has a one-year residency requirement for at least one of the spouses in most legal separations and divorces. The same forms must be filed. Like divorce, a petition for legal separation must include the grounds for the request. Iowa is a no-fault state, but you must demonstrate why there is a breakdown in your marriage that most likely cannot be repaired.

There is also a 90-day waiting period after filing before a judge will sign a separation decree. During the waiting period, the two parties work through their attorneys to negotiate the terms of the separation.

Before a judge can finalize the legal separation, the following matters must be settled:

The court can also decide contested issues if the two parties are unable to come to an agreement. The legal separation decree formalizes the agreement and declares that their assets and liabilities are no longer joint. Whenever minor children are involved, the court will require both parents to attending parenting classes. This is true in separation as well as divorce.

There are a six states that have no laws recognizing legal separation:

  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas

Benefits of Legal Separation

Couples have a variety of reasons why they choose a legal separation over a divorce. For some, they are working on their relationship issues and are holding out hope for reconciliation. Others may not want to reconcile but don’t want to divorce for religious reasons.

Other benefits of legal separation include the following:

  • Spouses can buy or sell property as individuals.
  • Spouses can remain on the other’s medical insurance.
  • Spouses can realize the tax benefits from filing jointly.
  • Spouses are still considered next of kin and can make medical decisions for the other.
  • Spouses may use legal separation to reach the 10-year mark required for a spouse to receive Social Security and military benefits from the other spouse’s work.

Obtaining a legal separation does not preclude either spouse from filing for divorce. Both parties also can file for a separation reversal in cases of reconciliation.

Advantages of Divorce

Some couples want a complete break from each other. Others may be victimized by the other spouse and do not want any continued ties. If there are no emotional or financial advantages to be gained by remaining married, then a divorce may be the most appropriate action. One major difference between legal separation and divorce is that divorce allows for the opportunity to remarry. During a legal separation, the couple is still legally married. They cannot enter another marital union without moving forward with a divorce.

Understanding Your Options

If you are considering the end of your marriage, one of our attorneys at Hope Law Firm can help you better understand the choices you have and how each affects you and your family. We are compassionate, nonjudgmental professionals who provide advice based on your best interests. The first consultation is free.

Take the next step by contacting us through our online form or by calling (515) 305-2772. We have two convenient locations in Des Moines and West Des Moines and serve families statewide.