Before beginning divorce proceedings, many Maryland couples choose to undergo a legal separation to sort out their feelings and see if their marriage can be saved. However, there are several considerations that people should keep in mind before choosing to live apart for a period of time.
For example, if one spouse handles all the finances, the other spouse should become familiar with all the accounts before the separation. This will ensure neither spouse hides income or expenditures from the other one. Each spouse should also open credit cards in their own name to establish credit as an individual. Likewise, all joint credit card accounts should be closed, as each party can be held legally responsible for any debt the other racks up during a separation. Estranged couples should also consider entering into a formal separation agreement, which would cover the financial terms of the separation, including liability for debts incurred during the separation, child and spousal support, who will pay health and life insurance premiums, and other applicable issues. They should have separate legal representation during this process.
While the separation agreement will go a long way to protect spouses during the separation period, there are still certain actions that could get people into trouble if they eventually choose to divorce. For instance, getting into a new relationship while still married could negatively impact a divorce settlement. Oversharing on social media could also pose problems during a divorce.
Individuals facing legal separation may wish to seek the advice of an attorney when preparing a separation agreement. Legal counsel could draw up terms that protect the client during both the separation and a potential divorce.
Source: Forbes, "Dos And Dont's Of Marital Separation", Jeff Landers, April 4, 2017