Arizona law protects mediation confidentiality. Your process will never become part of the public record.
A legal separation is similar to an Arizona divorce, in that all assets and debts are separated and a parenting plan is finalized, but when legally separated, spouses remain legally married. A legal separation can be converted to a divorce at a later date. A divorce is the dissolution or ending of a marriage, while a legal separation creates a total financial separation (and potentially physical separation) while your legal status remains ‘married.’ Legal separation can be an advantageous alternative to divorce for some married people.
In Arizona, spouses can complete their entire legal separation or divorce process in mediation, completely avoiding combative litigation. While the courts continue to experience major delays in the wake of COVID-19, the mediation process for legal separation and divorce process remains simple, affordable, and can be easily completed in as little as two months.
Call 480-799-7399 to discuss your questions with a Mediation Coordinator.
Table of Contents
The Differences Between
Legal Separation and Divorce
“By completing your process through mediation,
you never have to step foot in a courtroom.”
The Aurit Center services are available 100% online via video conferencing. The Aurit Center is a leader in online mediation, where spouses reach agreements on all issues of legal separation or divorce, from the location of their choice. We draft and prepare for finalization your property settlement agreement, consent decree, and if applicable, your parenting plan. By completing your process through mediation, you never have to step foot in a courtroom.
The Aurit Center’s respectful process prioritizes the well-being of children. We help you to create agreements that allow you to continue to provide structure for your kids. We help you provide a sense of continued stability when your family needs it most.
“The Aurit Center’s respectful process prioritizes
the well-being of children.”
During your complimentary consultation, your potential mediator can explain the advantages and disadvantages of legal separation, and can help you to make an informed decision about how best to move forward. The free consultation is informational and does not begin any process. Call us today at 480-999-7399, or reach out through our online submission form to schedule your free consultation.
If you have a Covenant Marriage, you can file for legal separation.
In Arizona, there is very little difference between the process for filing a decree of legal separation and the process for divorce. Indeed, the process of filing for either is almost identical and can take about the same amount of time to complete.
Both require the following legal documentation and process: ‘Petition’, ‘Acceptance of Service’, and a final ‘Consent Decree’. Arizona’s residency requirement is that at least one spouse has been an Arizona resident for at least the last 90 days.
In mediation, for either legal separation or divorce, you will need to discuss and agree upon the same issues: division of assets and debts, child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), and a parenting plan, including parenting time and legal decision-making authority.
If you are involved in litigation with a divorce attorney representing opposing parties, these same issues will be battled out in an adversarial court process. You can begin mediation at any time, even after litigation has already begun.
|Timeline||In mediation, typically takes 2-4 months. In litigation, it can take months or even years.||In mediation, typically takes 2-4 months. In litigation, it can take months or even years.|
|Marital Status||You live apart but remain married.||You are no longer married.|
|Time to Adapt||Can be an ‘emotional stepping-stone’ for spouses and their children; provides more time to adapt and adjust to their changing family dynamics.||For spouses who are confident there is no chance for reconciliation.|
|Health Insurance||May have the option to remain on spouses health insurance. Important to consult your providers.||May have temporary COBRA coverage. Important to consult your providers.|
|Financial Relationship||Terminates the financial relationship between spouses.||Terminates the financial relationship between spouses.|
|Religious Reasons||Addressed religious reasons to avoid divorce.||May be less accepted by some.|
|Reconciliation||Provides for the possibility of reconciliation.||Assumes there is no possibility for reconciliation.|
|Remarriage||Remarriage is unnecessary as you remain legally married.||Remarriage is an option as you are no longer married.|
|Taxes||Federal government still sees legally separated spouses as married for tax purposes. Many choose the Married Filing Separately status.||Taxes are filed separately as you are no longer married.|
|Retirement||Possible continued eligibility for retirement, military, or social security benefits after meeting specific requirements||In mediation, spouses reach agreements. In litigation, a judge makes the decisions.|
Note: When ‘legally separated’, you may still be able to remain on one another’s health insurance, however, you can not remarry. It is important to check with your insurance company to verify their policy regarding coverage for legally separated spouses.
Legal separation terminates the financial relationship between spouses, who most likely now live apart, however, they are still legally married. This can be especially beneficial for a spouse who wants/needs to remain on the other’s health insurance. There can be financial benefits depending upon how the agreements are structured.
“Legal Separation can provide more time to adapt
and adjust to changing family dynamics.”
Whether spouses have religious reasons to avoid divorce or they believe there is a good possibility for reconciliation, legal separation provides a useful alternative to divorce. For some spouses and their children, legal separation is an emotional stepping stone or trial separation. Legal separation can provide more time to adapt and adjust to changing family dynamics.
Both legal separation and divorce include property division to include a physical and financial separation. Your community property relationship ends during your legal separation process. The date of your community property relationship ending may be the date ‘Acceptance of Service’ is signed or another mutually agreed upon date. In just about all ways, legal separation looks like, sounds like, and feels like divorce. However, at the end of the legal separation process, spouses maintain a legal status of ‘married.’
Yes, a legal separation agreement can be converted into a divorce at any time. In mediation, we prepare the court document necessary to convert your legal separation to divorce. This document is called a Stipulated Motion to Convert Legal Separation to Divorce.
In both mediation and litigation, the terms typically remain the same when converting a legal separation to a dissolution, except in very rare circumstances.
In Arizona, when legal separation is finalized, spouses will likely have:
However, they are still legally married, where divorced spouses are no longer legally married. The issues to be decided to create legal separation or divorce agreements are the same: division of assets and debts, spousal support and parenting time, previously referred to as child custody.
The most obvious difference is that there are tax benefits granted to married couples that no longer apply when a couple is legally separated. Additionally, the ability to continue to maintain a spouse’s employee benefits, such as health insurance and life insurance vary.
Even though legally separated, spouses are still legally married, for the purposes of taxes the federal government recognizes the separated spouses as divorced, and they cannot file jointly on their income taxes. Agreements regarding distribution of funds from tax returns can be made in mediation. Many spouses choose the ‘Married Filing Separately’ status. Your mediator can provide referrals to professional accounting services if you would like further assistance in making the best decision regarding your tax filings.
In Arizona, getting a legal separation takes the same amount of time as getting a divorce. In mediation, the entire process can be completed within 2-4 months.
The Aurit Center can help you reach agreements as quickly as possible and complete your entire process efficiently. In litigation, the process can take up to one year or longer to resolve a divorce case or legal separation case.
“In mediation, the entire process can be
completed within 2-4 months.”
In Arizona, spouses can remain legally separated for as long as they wish, until the time of either spouse’s death. In the event that one spouse dies while the couple is legally separated, the marital relationship ends without the surviving spouse going to family court, and no further legal process is necessary.
Legal separation can serve as a step in-between marriage and divorce, when either one or both parties are not emotionally ready to pursue divorce. If this is your situation, a legal separation offers you the opportunity to develop mutually-beneficial agreements in mediation, while taking the time you need to emotionally adjust to the idea of divorce. The legal separation offers flexibility. It can easily transition into a divorce or, should you reconcile, transition back to your former marital status.
There are many unique emotional situations in which a legal separation is advantageous. For instance legal separation may be preferable for couples who find that they still love one another but no longer desire to live together, or for spouses who find that they are no longer in love with one another but want to continue to pool financial resources. Mediation is an ideal solution for many spouses wanting to reach unique personalized agreements in a non-judgmental, supportive environment.
“The legal separation offers flexibility.”
Religion is one of the main reasons couples choose legal separation over divorce. Some religious or cultural beliefs are more accepting of legal separation compared to divorce, because they appreciate that reconciliation is still possible.
Legal separation provides some financial, and possibly physical, separation while legally, remaining together. Therapists and counselors can help those struggling with the religious aspects of marriage, separation, and divorce. Spouses in mediation collaborate to reach mutually-beneficial agreements that meet their needs whether they decide to legally separate, divorce, or reconcile.
Maybe. Many spouses decide to legally separate to ensure that both spouses continue to have sufficient health insurance coverage. Since legally separated spouses are still legally married, in most circumstances health insurance benefits may remain in place during the legal separation.
It is important to check with your health insurance provider to thoroughly understand your benefits, and how legal separation may affect coverage for you or your spouse.
In a divorce, spouses usually have separate insurance after the divorce is final. COBRA, through the current health insurance, may be an option for a period of time after divorce, but this is typically quite expensive and has a finite coverage period.
Legal separation divides all assets and debts, keeping future income and finances separate, as it would in a divorce. The division of property is the same in both legal separation and divorce. If you and your spouse want to remain together, but need to protect one party from the other’s financial liability, due to future business or personal debts, legal separation may be an ideal option.
Legal Separation may allow for continued eligibility for retirement, military, or social security benefits after meeting specific requirements.
It is important to speak with your benefit providers to thoroughly understand how legally separating or divorcing will specifically impact you and your spouse’s eligibility.
We are the only Arizona firm to offer a 0%, 12 month payment plan.
Children are emotionally impacted when their parents legally separate or divorce. Whether you choose legal separation or divorce, mediation helps you protect your children from the harmful conflict and fighting involved in litigation.
“The Aurit Center believes in prioritizing the
well-being of children.”
Research tells us that the negative emotional impact of either is due to the parental CONFLICT involved and not the process itself.
The Aurit Center believes in prioritizing the well-being of children. Mediation helps protect kids and ensures that they adapt in the most positive way possible.
When there is a reasonable chance for reconciliation, legal separation may be explained to children as a time period that you, the parents, need to live in separate places. You can help your kids adjust by making sure they know that:
Even in the situation where the parents do not reconcile, the children will have had some time to adjust and may be more emotionally ready for a divorce in the future.
When reconciliation is unlikely, parents should be honest with their children so that the legal separation does not result in a false sense of hope that the parents may reunite. Unrealistic expectations can make a future conversion to divorce more difficult for the children.
Whether you choose legal separation or divorce, you can prioritize your children’s health and well-being by completing your process in mediation. Trained professional family mediators are versed in family law, dispute resolution, and divorce-related financial issues. Your mediator will help you both through the process in a simple, affordable, efficient, fair, and confidential way that will best protect your children from the harm of litigation in court.
The decision to separate or divorce can be complicated and confusing. One spouse may resist the notion of divorce proceedings or legal separation all together. However, everyone involved should understand that if one spouse wishes to proceed with divorce, Arizona’s “no fault” divorce means that a divorce will move forward. In Arizona, only one spouse needs to want the divorce for it to take place.
You can move forward with mediation before you have made a final decision about whether to legally separate or divorce. During mediation, you can change your mind at any time before a decree is final. Thus, if mediation begins as a legal separation, it can be changed to divorce before the final papers are submitted to the court. Likewise, mediation can begin as a divorce and change to a legal separation at any time before a decree is final.
“There is no right or wrong; only what you
believe is best for your circumstances.”
There is no difference in the mediation process in terms of legal separation ordivorce. Moving forward with legal separation or divorce is an entirely personal decision. There is no right or wrong; only what you believe is best for your circumstances. Getting legal advice from a family law attorney is encouraged in either event. Discernment Counseling can also help you to make this decision.
In mediation, you and your spouse will be guided by your mediator to communicate in a solution-focused manner which helps to keep conflict low during that process and into the future.
Choosing mediation, rather than each spouse hiring an aggressive law firm, will increase the chances of a successful and amicable separation. You can choose mediation and avoid escalating conflict, and a battle in superior court.
Before you make a decision to legally separate or divorce, it is important to be aware of the following possible disadvantages of legal separation:
No, as a legally separated couple, even having filed a ‘Petition’ for legal separation, you remain legally married, making it impossible for either spouse to remarry. In contrast, a divorced couple reverts to single status and each person has the right to remarry at any time following the dissolution of their marriage.
For some spouses going through a legal separation, the pain of the current situation makes it nearly impossible to be concerned about remarriage. However, they will likely feel differently in six months or six years. Both spouses should review their options with their mediator in order to make an informed choice.
Published date: Apr 6, 2020
Four steps to a
healthy legal separation
We are the only Arizona firm to offer a 0%, 12 month payment plan.
Your mediator will explain our simple process and answer all your questions.
With your mediator guiding the way, you remain in control of your terms, not the judge. As you negotiate, your mediator will identify the issues, inform you of what is provided under Arizona law, and help you reach your best possible agreement.
We draft your agreements for your review and approval. If you would like to get additional independent legal advice before you sign, we have options available for you.
We file your petition; no one is ever “served,” and you avoid the stress and extended time of a court battle. Your divorce or legal separation is finalized after we submit your consent decree to the court. You never go to court.
Arizona law protects mediation confidentiality. Your process will never become part of the public record.
When you enter into mediation at The Aurit Center, you avoid stressful court hearings and trials.
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