In Indiana, there are two distinct legal processes to address marital difficulties: legal separation and dissolution (divorce). These processes have different purposes and outcomes.
Legal separation is an option when it is currently intolerable for the parties to live together, but the marriage should still be maintained. It acknowledges that the parties are experiencing difficulties in their marriage but believe that these difficulties are temporary and that the marriage can be preserved. The legal separation process allows for the orderly resolution of issues such as child custody, child support, and debt payment. However, it is important to note that legal separation is intended to be a temporary arrangement, with a duration typically limited to one year. The presumption is that the parties agree that their difficulties are temporary and that the marriage should ultimately be maintained.
On the other hand, dissolution, also known as divorce, is the legal process to end a marriage when the parties agree that the marriage should not be maintained. It is a permanent termination of the marital relationship. Unlike legal separation, dissolution is not a temporary arrangement but a final dissolution of the marriage. It involves the resolution of various issues, including child custody, child support, division of assets and debts, and spousal support.
It's important to note that legal separation and dissolution are mutually exclusive. Legal separation can serve as a prelude to dissolution if the difficulties in the marriage persist and the parties decide that the marriage cannot be maintained. In such cases, the legal separation can be converted into a dissolution proceeding.
The choice between legal separation and dissolution depends on the parties' assessment of the viability of the marriage. If they believe that the difficulties are temporary and the marriage can be preserved, legal separation may be pursued. However, if they determine that the marriage cannot be maintained, dissolution is the appropriate course of action.