What Happens When You File for a Legal Separation?

If you reach a point in your marriage at which you no longer want to remain with your spouse, you can choose to file a petition for divorce or legal separation. Most people generally understand divorces, but what happens when you file for a legal separation? For a basic overview of legal separation in Arkansas and Oklahoma, please scroll down.

What Happens When You File for a Legal Separation?

If you are wondering what happens when you file for a legal separation, it is important for you to understand how a separation differs from a divorce. In both Oklahoma and Arkansas, a divorce will end a marriage. After you get divorced, you and your spouse will be free to marry other people. However, some people prefer to remain married but live separately because of their religious beliefs, insurance concerns, or other reasons. Some people want to legally separate to give themselves time to attend counseling and determine whether they really want to end their marriages or reconcile instead.

Filing for a Legal Separation in Arkansas

Under Ark. Code § 9-11-808, you can choose to file a petition for legal separation or divorce. Arkansas allows two types of marriages, a regular marriage or a covenant marriage, and the process of obtaining a legal separation can be tricky if you entered into a covenant marriage.

With a covenant marriage, before you can receive a decree of legal separation, you must first complete the required counseling and then present evidence that your spouse committed adultery, committed a felony and has been sentenced to prison, or physically or sexually abused you. You can also obtain a legal separation if you and your spouse have lived separately for at least two years or your spouse has engaged in habitual drunkenness for at least one year or has treated you with cruelty or indignity.

With a regular marriage, you can obtain a legal separation after living apart for 18 months, and you will not have to prove any grounds for divorce, as you would with a covenant marriage.

Filing for a Legal Separation in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, under 43 OK Stat. § 43-103, you can file a petition for a legal separation from your spouse in your county or in the county where he or she resides. Your petition can be based on incompatibility and does not have to plead one of the fault grounds. However, you can file a petition based on a fault ground if you want.

What to Expect After Filing for Legal Separation

Once you file for legal separation in either Oklahoma or Arkansas, the court will handle your case in a similar way to how it would treat a divorce case. Your property will be divided equitably. The court will also make decisions about child custody, child support, and spousal support, and you and your spouse will be allowed to live apart from each other. You can also try to negotiate a separation agreement with your spouse without having to litigate the issues in court. Any property you buy after your petition for separation is filed will be treated as your separate property. Once you receive your decree of legal separation from the court, you and your spouse can continue living separately. However, your marriage will not be over, and you will not be free to marry other people. If you later decide you want to divorce, you can file a motion with the court asking for your separation to be converted to a divorce.

Talk to the Attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook

If you are considering a legal separation in Arkansas or Oklahoma, you should talk to an experienced family lawyer at the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook. We can help you determine whether a separation or divorce is a better option for you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at 479-783-8000.