The short answer is yes, you can obtain a Decree of Separate Maintenance, which essentially defines everyone's rights and responsibilities while they are living separate and apart but while still married.
What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?
Nevada is a Community Property state, and while some other Community Property states handle the issue differently, Nevada has concluded you are married until you are divorced, and separation does not in any substantive way terminate the relationship. Divorce, on the other hand, terminates the relationship and restores the parties to the status of a single person. So the short answer is that a legal separation does not terminate the relationship of husband and wife.
What are the advantages of a legal separation?
There are essentially three (3) reasons to obtain a legal separation. First, it can define the rights and responsibilities of husband and wife while they are living separate and apart. Nevada law provides that spouses must provide for the support of one another unless there is a legal excuse. Second, it permits one spouse to continue to cover the other spouse on their health insurance (which is sometimes a major issue, but should be mostly resolved when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented). Third, and by no means last, it can define the terms of a divorce action in the event the legal separation does not result in reconciliation.
What are the disadvantages of a legal separation?
Many people from back East, the Midwest, or even the West Coast, remember hearing that a legal separation provides them with insulation from liability for the bad acts of a spouse. So, for example, if your spouse drinks and drives, you might want to have a legal separation to protect you legally from your spouse's bad acts. However, because Nevada takes the view that you are married until you are divorced, legal separations in Nevada do not afford the kind of legal insulation from liability that legal separations provide in other jurisdictions. All a legal separation would provide in terms of insulation from liability is a false sense of security, and so it is useless (and in fact detrimental) to have a legal separation for the purposes of protecting yourself from liability.
How do I determine if a legal separation is right for me?
You should contact an attorney who limits his practice primarily to family law. Many offer free consultations so you can review your facts and applicable law, and then determine how best to proceed.
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