The greatest difference between legal separation and divorce is that legal separation does not end a marriage or domestic partnership.
Understanding Legal Separation
Typically, spouses that seek a legal separation don’t want to get divorced, or aren’t get ready for divorce, but want to live apart. During this time of living apart, it’s important that certain legalities surrounding money, property, and parenting are agreed to, in order to avoid disputes. Often times legal separation is the first step towards divorce. And the formal judgment that is issued during legal separation can help address and resolve aspects of a marriage. Working out these various aspects of a marriage can help ease the tension of a divorce, should it go that direction. But spouses who are legally separated are not legally free to marry because a neither spouse’s legal status is returned to “single” in the separation process, unlike the divorce process.
During a legal separation your interests as a married couple are protected until a final decision to divorce is made. Often times, couples choose to just remain separated and never choose to pursue a legal divorce.
Issues Addressed in Legal Separation
Typically, during the separation process various things are dealt with, including: child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, marital property division, attorney fees, and personal conduct. The only thing that remains untouched is the actual marital status of the couple.
Why Pursue Legal Separation?
There are advantages with legal separation, including:
- Spouses are able to maintain benefits such as a spouse’s health care plan or military benefits.
- Staying legally married for 10 years allows couples certain social security benefits.
- The separation period allows for a “cool off time,” during which parties can work to resolve their differences. Couples can then decide to either pursue a divorce or resume the marriage.
- In some religions divorce is not allowed or recognized. Legal separation allows these religious couples to live separate lives while still remaining married and true their faith.
- Legal separation can be used to solve immediate problems in couples who are uncertain about moving forward with divorce.
Source: Legal Match, What Is Legal Separation? 2014
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