Legal Separation Lawyer in Phoenix AZ

Arizona residents who no longer wish to remain married have two options available to them, divorce and legal separation. In some cases, an Arizona legal separation is the beginning of the path towards divorce and in other cases, it is the only legal remedy a couple may seek. It may not seem clear why people opt for legal separation versus a divorce but there are some very specific reasons for this action.

Phoenix Family Law Attorney explains legal separation

When a couple decides on a legal separation, there can be a number of reasons for the action. In some cases, the couple is hoping to salvage their marriage or they are hoping to get to a position where they can agree on the terms of a divorce. However, there are some instances where a legal separation may be the only step they take for personal reasons including:

  • Religious beliefs – There are still many faiths that will ex-communicate members of their church if they file for divorce from their spouse. When one partner or both partners are true to their faith, they may see a divorce as a betrayal of that faith. Additionally, those who have deep religious convictions and strong ties to their church community may be shunned at a time when they desperately need emotional support
  • Immigration matters – When one partner immigrated to the United States to marry another partner, there may be legal ramifications to divorcing. Oftentimes, there are limits on the amount of time the partners must remain married in order for the person to remain in the country
  • Other matters – There are other reasons for legal separation including division of marital property issues, one partner going into debt and health reasons. Some partners feel given time they can reach a mutual agreement over these matters before filing for divorce

Legal Separation

Generally when a couple files for an Arizona legal separation, many of the same issues they would deal with in a divorce must be dealt with including property divisionchild custody and support payments. Oftentimes, an Arizona legal separation that is temporary gives the partners time to work out issues that they simply cannot agree on.


What is the difference between obtaining a legal separation and getting a divorce?

The most salient difference is the fact that couples that opt for separation are still legally married. Even if they have decided to live apart, the law considers them married. This means, for example, that the parties in separation cannot remarry.

Divorce is much more final than a separation. If a separated couple decides to reconcile, it’s easy for one of the spouses to file a request with the court to overturn the original order.

How can you request a legal separation in Arizona?

To get started, you must have been a resident of the state for at least 90 days. Then you can file a petition to obtain a legal separation. This is done in the county where you live.

Do you need to give a reason why you want the separation?

Yes. For the court to grant the separation, you must provide a reason which would demonstrate that:

  • Your marriage is permanently broken.
  • Either you or your spouse has decided to live apart.
  • The other spouse has agreed to the idea of separation.

What else do you need to inform the judge before the separation is granted?

Even if this is a separation and not a divorce, before the judge can approve your request, you must have agreed with your partner on how certain important matters will be handled. Among them are how will child custody and support be managed and what property you own together, and how that would be divided.

How is child custody handled in a separation agreement?

Whether it is a divorce or a legal separation, the child’s best interest is always considered a top priority by the legal system. Preferably, you should approach the court with an amicable decision regarding child custody reached by both of you. If that is not possible, it becomes the court’s decision, and the factors that are used to make it are certain parameters that determine the parent’s ability to provide for the child.

Why is a legal separation important?

A legal separation can have many benefits while separating without an agreement in place can put you at risk. A written separation agreement can limit liability for debts incurred by your spouse while living apart. If they fail to make payments towards that debt and you are still married, the creditor can seek remedies against you.

That is why it is so important to decide what you want to do with joint credit cards and bank accounts, who gets what assets, who pays child support and for how long, and many other issues that could mean trouble down the road if not put down in writing in a legal separation agreement.

The subject of children is another important aspect to be discussed and included in the separation agreement. Think about who lives with whom and for how long, who pays for their education, health insurance, and other items. And if you do decide to divorce in the future, these agreed-upon items can serve as a basis for what comes next.

If you and your spouse are uncertain about the future of your marriage, contact Cosmas Onyia, P.C. and discuss your options for a legal separation. This may be a temporary or permanent solution depending on your specific needs. I can also work with you to ensure that your rights to property are protected, that you get support payments if feasible and work with you to help ensure any children get the financial support they are entitled to. You do not have to navigate legal separation on your own, as a Phoenix family law attorney I am here to help.