There are four different types of separations:
- Trial Separation – A couple will live apart for a while to decide whether or not to divorce. If they do eventually divorce, any assets and debts accumulated during the trial separation are generally considered jointly owned. A trial separation is usually not legally recognized.
- Living Apart – The couple no longer resides in the same home. Some states consider property accumulated and debts incurred while living apart to be the sole property or debt of the person who accumulated or incurred it. In other states, property and debt is joint unless and until a divorce complaint is filed in court.
- Permanent Separation – A couple decides to permanently split. This can follow a trial separation, or begin immediately when a couple starts to live apart. In most states, all assets received and most debts incurred after permanent separation are the separate property or responsibility of the spouse incurring them.However, debts that happen after separation but before divorce are usually joint debts if they are incurred for certain necessities, such as to provide for the children or maintain the marital home. Again, a couple’s decision to permanently separate may not be considered a legal one unless one party takes the other to court for support or custody pending a divorce action. This then leads to a state of legal separation.
- Legal Separation – A couple separates, and a court rules on the division of assets, child custody and visitation and financial support. However, a divorce is not granted. The money for support of the spouse and children under this circumstance is often known as separate maintenance (instead of alimony and child support).