Not that anyone thought that divorce was a cut and dry legal act, but now many couples are considering a legal separation versus a divorce. Is this strategy a good solution for you?

It could be the sign of the times that couples are deciding to remain separated rather than divorce, even if they know the marriage is beyond repair. Some use the legal separation out of financial necessity or for religious reasons.

But, before you consider a legal separation, there are a few things that you need to know. A legal separation is if one person is going to be living away from their spouse. Both parties should be involved in the development of the separation agreement, which legally binds the parties to resolve issues such as spousal support, child visitation and the division of assets and debts.

Having this legally bound document will help reduce some financial risk to both parties and ease the stress of the situation. If there is no agreement in place, it can put you at risk. You could remain liable for your spouse's debts and possibly other legal issues. For example, if your spouse goes out and maxes out your joint credit card, you are legally obligated to pay back the debt. But, with a separation agreement, it can already be clearly stated what will happen with joint credit cards, to avoid complications in the future.

Only an experienced attorney can advise you if this is a viable option for you. Your attorney will know if your state recognizes legal separation agreements, because divorce law can vary from state to state. Some states may require the legal separation before you can file for divorce, while others recognize the legal separation, but it's not a requirement.

Additionally, while there are some benefits to separation, for those couples who are able to work together to reach an agreement, a collaborative divorce may actually be the best option. With collaborative divorce, a couple who is willing to work together can work with their attorneys, to resolve matters without having to go to court. This approach typically allows couples to create flexible and unorthodox solutions to their issues.

Source: Forbes, "Legal Separation or Divorce: Which is Better Financially?" Jeff Landers, Jan. 10, 2012