The proceedings for an Arizona legal separation are almost identical to a divorce. The court may enter orders regarding spousal maintenance, divide the property and debts of the spouses, and, if children are involved, enter orders regarding custody, parenting time in child support.
The only significant difference between a divorce and a legal separation is that, after a separation is complete, the couple remains married. A couple who may wish to be legally separated for, among other reasons, the following:
- A religious objection to divorce
- Need to remain married to maintain insurance or other benefits
- A couple wishes to work on marital reconciliation but keep their financial matters separate until that reconciliation is accomplished
Frequently, during the pending legal separation case, one of the parties wishes to convert the case to a divorce. This is a very simple process merely requiring the person asking for the divorce to tell the judge he or she wants a divorce. The case will then convert, even over the objection of the other party.
Once the parties separate legally, they no longer have the same rights and responsibilities. Each spouse is responsible for his or her own debts and assets. To make sure that you protect your assets and rights, an experienced lawyer can help you with an Arizona separation agreement.
Occasionally, once the Decree of Legal Separation is signed by the judge, one of the parties wishes to get divorced. That party must file an entirely new Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (divorce action). However, the orders regarding division of debt and property in the Decree of Legal Separation remain in effect and cannot be modified in the divorce proceeding. However, in the divorce proceeding, the parties can revisit the issues of spousal maintenance, custody, parenting time and child support.