Children and Legal Separation

Children and Legal Separation

If, regarding children, you want to have different decisions in a divorce than were made in a legal separation, you can do so. Children are an exception to the general rule that decisions in a legal separation are final in a divorce. You and your spouse can make certain decisions and agreements for a legal separation concerning children, and you then are free to renegotiate or litigate those decisions in a subsequent divorce. Please recognize that there is some duplication of documents, times and litigation expense if a legal separation turns into subsequent divorce.

If the person who filed for a legal separation decides that he or she prefers a divorce, then that spouse may file a petition to modify the original petition and request a dissolution instead. If one spouse files for a legal separation, however, and the other party wants a divorce, that responsive party can convert the legal separation into a divorce without the consent of the party who filed first, and without paying additional filing fees.

Do not be lulled into thinking you are just getting separated, when your initiating separation may, in fact, cause your partner to respond with a divorce. You may find yourself trying to stop a runaway train if you file for a legal separation, falsely believing that a divorce cannot result from your initial filing. Use caution in filing any papers, and never use it as an attention-getting device, because it may go further than you wanted. Remember, if either party wants a divorce, there is nothing you legally can do to stop it.

Next: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce in Arizona? An Arizona legal separation and an Arizona divorce are almost identical. In fact, there are more similarities than differences. In both cases, the court will issue final orders dividing the spouses’ debts and assets, enter decision-making and parenting time orders regarding the...

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