Can a Legal Separation Be Withdrawn If We Get Back Together?
There are times when couples who are in the midst of serious marital problems seek a legal separation. This usually takes place when they are either working towards a reconciliation or considering a permanent split. A divorce is a legal dissolution of a marriage. However, a legal separation is a court order which mandates the rights and duties of a couple who remain married but live in separate homes.
What is a Legal Separation?
Unlike a divorce, a legal separation is not permanent. But much like a divorce, during a legal separation, the courts will make provisions regarding the division of assets, spousal or child support, and child visitation. Some people consider this process to be a trial run for an actual divorce in an effort to ascertain if a permanent split is the right decision. There are states, such as Texas, that do not allow legal separations.
Differences Between a Legal Separation and a Divorce
There are specific differences between a legal separation and a divorce; the most distinct one being that legally separated couples remain married. However, spouses are allowed to retain health care and Social Security benefits during a legal separation. Those benefits are terminated after a divorce. Another key difference between a legal separation and divorce is that your spouse is still considered to be the next of kin and is responsible for making medical or financial decisions should you become seriously incapacitated.
In a divorce, the division of debt is allocated during the court proceedings; yet during a legal separation, both parties may still be responsible for the marital debts incurred. During a legal separation, a spouse has the right to seek property benefits from their deceased partner’s estate. These benefits are no longer available after a divorce.
In contrast to a divorce, you cannot remarry during a legal separation. But most importantly, a divorce is final. If a couple wants to reunite; they have to remarry.
Reversing a Legal Separation
A legal separation doesn’t mean a marriage has ended. If a couple separates, they have the opportunity to stay together if both parties decide to reconcile. This process is called a reversal. Once you and your spouse have agreed to permanently reunite, you’ll need to obtain a copy of the original Order of Legal Separation. If for some reason you did not receive this order after filing for separation you can obtain a copy from the family court clerk where you initially filed for separation. If the judge never filed the order, then you and your spouse are not legally separated, and you can move on with your lives.
If the judge did enter the order, then you will need to complete a Motion to Vacate Order of Legal Separation. This motion will affirm that both you and your spouse have decided to end the separation. It is also necessary to give a reason for the reconciliation and confirm that a divorce was never filed or finalized. The docket number from the original order will need to be included in this document. You should ask the family court clerk for instructions on how to appropriately complete this motion. You can find examples of these filings online, but it may be useful to seek legal representation to ensure that you present the information correctly. If the motion is not completed accurately and according to the court’s required format, the judge may deny your request.
Both you and your spouse will need to sign this motion and then draft an Order to Vacate Order of Legal Separation. This should be placed at the end of your motion and does not need to be elaborate or exhaustive. It could conceivably say, “The above-entitled action is ordered vacated.” Make sure to include a space where the judge can sign and date the order.
The Motion to Vacate as well as the Order should be filed with the clerk at the Family Court where you originally filed for legal separation. Include a copy of the Order for Legal Separation, and be prepared to pay a filing fee. This fee must be paid in full before your motion will be accepted by the court.
Once the orders and motions are filed, a hearing date will be set by the court, and both you and your spouse will need to attend. During the hearing, you will explain the reasons for the reconciliation, and unless there are extenuating circumstances, the court will cancel the separation. All assets will return to the pre-separation status. In addition, alimony or spousal support, child custody arrangements and child support will end. At that point, the court no longer has any jurisdiction over your marital status.