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Legal Separation in Nebraska

What Is Legal Separation?

The bottom line is that legal separation can accomplish many similar goals as a divorce but without dissolving the marriage. These commonly include property and debt division, child custody, parenting time, child support, and alimony. These issues are decided in much the same way they are during a divorce. Among the main differences is that at the end of the separation process, you are still legally married. This means that you cannot remarry unless or until an actual divorce is obtained.

Although legal separation often includes a separation of property and debts, and a determination of alimony or spousal support, there are important differences as well. For one, separation is often presumed to be a short to medium-term measure, and the length of support ordered may reflect that. Whereas a divorce could award alimony to one spouse for the rest of their life, this would be much less likely in a separation. Instead, the court might be more likely to order alimony for the next few years.

Legal separation may also cause some uncertainty as to property or debts acquired or accrued during the period of separation. Depending on the circumstances, these developments may be considered the responsibility of one party only, or could be considered as affecting both parties to the marriage. It is important to consider issues like this before entering into any settlement agreement, which can help to clarify potential problem areas. Similarly, it may be possible for the court to freeze assets or put a moratorium on acquiring new marital debt during the separation period, or for some other term, as the circumstances may justify.

Finally, legal separation lays the groundwork for a future divorce, if one is ever sought. This means that agreements reached in the separation process (child custody, property division, etc.) are likely to be carried in to a final decree if the parties do ever seek a divorce. So, do not consider the terms of a separation agreement to be a temporary measure only, because those terms may be made permanent in a later divorce proceeding. Alternatively, legal separation, unlike a divorce, can be terminated at some point in the future. If a couple gets divorced, they would need to get married again to attempt to “undo” their decision to divorce. Separation, on the other hand, can later be terminated by the court and the marriage resumed.

Informal (non-legal) Separation vs. Legal Separation

Moving out, or cutting off contact with your spouse may physically separate you from your spouse, but this is not recognized by the Courts or the State of Nebraska, and will have little to no legal effect. Legal separation on the other hand, is a formal recognition that a marriage has been more-or-less suspended, or is on the path to being dissolved permanently. Legal separation is not as final as divorce, but does accomplish many similar goals. Again, however, it is necessary to go through the appropriate court procedures to have a separation legally recognized, and to obtain the legal benefits that it offers.

Reasons For Separation

Legal separation accomplishes many of the same things as divorce, but stops short of permanently dissolving the marriage. Couples may want to pursue separation in place of dissolution for a few main reasons:

  1. You are not yet sure that you want the separation to be permanent.
    Pursuing legal separation is a serious step that carries significant consequences. However, it is not final in the same way that a divorce is final. For this reason, couples who have not entirely committed themselves to permanent divorce may have reason to go through a separation as an intermediary step while they see if there is any future chance of reconciliation for their marriage.


  2. You do not meet the court’s jurisdictional requirements to obtain a divorce.
    The most common way this interacts with separation is when a couple has not yet lived in their Nebraska jurisdiction for the required one year prior to filing for divorce. In cases like this, it is generally impossible for the State of Nebraska to grant a divorce, but legal separation does not have the same requirement and can be pursued prior to meeting the one year residency requirement.


  3.  Some other consideration relating to divorce, such as religion.
    Any number of other factors could influence the decision of whether to pursue a full divorce, or not. Religious beliefs are one common limit on the ability or willingness of a couple to obtain a full divorce. In situations like this, legal separation can accomplish many of the same goals as divorce, without the stigma attached to such a permanent decision.


How Do I Get Legally Separated? How Does It Work?

The process for getting separated is very similar to that of divorce. A complaint must be filed with the court and the other party must be given official notice, just as with a divorce. A settlement agreement can be reached if agreed upon by the parties, or the matter can be put before the court to determine the rights and responsibilities of each party. Just like divorce, there is no fault requirement, meaning that it does not typically matter why the relationship broke down, or if the other party agrees that it has actually broken down. However, if the other party asks the court to move the separation to a full divorce, the court will typically do so, even against the wishes of their spouse, as long as the residency requirement is.

It is also possible to move from a separation to a divorce after the separation has been finalized and entered by the court. Often, major issues will have already been worked out in the separation, which may simplify the divorce process. For the same reason, you should carefully consider the terms of any separation agreement because it will likely heavily impact the terms of any future divorce. An experienced family law attorney can help make sure that your rights are protected, and help you through the process of obtaining a separation. If everything goes smoothly, it is often possible to finalize a legal separation without ever having to step foot inside a court room.

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