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Legal Separation

An alternative to divorce that leaves open the possibility of reconciliation

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation is a court action that is nearly identical to the divorce process, however there are a few key differences. While a divorce action ends a marriage, a legal separation action does not. When couples are divorced, they attest to the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken with no chance of reconciliation, whereas when couples are legally separated—they are stating that the marriage is broken but leave the option open to dismiss the legal separation action should the couple wish to reconcile. With a legal separation, the issues of custody, placement, property division, debt division, and spousal maintenance still need to be worked out just as in a divorce action.
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Legal Separation in Wisconsin

It is important to point out that the legal separation process is not less expensive, nor is it a faster option, as there is still the 120-day waiting period in the State of Wisconsin. Additionally, a court does not have the ability to restore a party’s maiden name when entering a judgment for a legal separation; the legally separated party would have to go through a separate name change procedure with the court.

Is Legal Separation Right for You?

So why proceed with a legal separation? Sometimes the jurisdictional requirement is not yet met to file divorce so a party can file a legal separation to start and later convert to a divorce. The jurisdictional requirement to file a divorce that needs to be met is that the filer be a resident of the county for at least 30 days and a resident of the state of Wisconsin for at least 6 months prior to filing for divorce. The county residency requirement is the same for filing a legal separation, however a party need only be a resident of the state of Wisconsin for 30 days to file for legal separation.
Further, health insurance coverage may be a key factor when choosing to file for a legal separation. Some health insurance providers allow a legally separated spouse to continue coverage under their same plan. This may be crucial if one spouse is unemployed, self-employed, or has a pre-existing condition that may pose a barrier to obtaining health insurance at a reasonable cost.

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