What Is The Difference Between Legal Separation And Divorce: What You Need to Know

If you are having marital problems and want to live apart from your spouse, you may be wondering whether you should get a legal separation or a divorce.

An image of a couple getting divorced
Divorce mediator [Photo courtesy of Family Ties]
Both options have legal and personal implications that you should consider before making a decision.

Here are some of the main differences and similarities between legal separation and divorce, as well as the pros and cons of each.

READ MORE: How to Get a Divorce Without Going to Court? 5 Ways to Save Time, Money, and Stress

What Is Legal Separation?

A legal separation is a formal process of separating from your spouse while remaining married. It involves filing a petition in court and obtaining a court order that outlines the terms of your separation, such as division of assets, child custody, alimony, and child support.

A legal separation is not the same as an informal separation, which is when you and your spouse simply agree to live apart without involving the court.

What Is Divorce?

A divorce is a legal dissolution of your marriage.

It also involves filing a petition in court and obtaining a court order that terminates your marital status and resolves the issues of your separation, such as division of assets, child custody, alimony, and child support.

A divorce is final and irreversible, unlike a legal separation, which can be converted into a divorce or revoked at any time.

Why Choose Legal Separation Over Divorce?

There are several reasons why some couples may prefer legal separation over divorce, such as:

Religious or personal beliefs

Some couples may have moral or ethical objections to divorce, or they may want to preserve the sanctity of their marriage for themselves or their children.

Financial benefits

Some couples may benefit from staying married for tax purposes, health insurance coverage, social security benefits, or pension benefits.

For example, if you are legally separated, you may still file a joint tax return, claim spousal benefits, or remain on your spouse’s health insurance plan.

Emotional reasons

Some couples may not be ready to end their marriage completely, or they may hope to reconcile in the future.

A legal separation may give them some space and time to work on their relationship or seek counseling.

Legal requirements

Some states may require a period of separation before granting a divorce, especially for no-fault grounds.

A legal separation may help you meet this requirement and expedite the divorce process.

Why Choose Divorce Over Legal Separation?

There are also some reasons why some couples may prefer divorce over legal separation, such as:

Remarriage

If you are legally separated, you are still married and cannot remarry.

If you want to start a new relationship or marry someone else, you need to get a divorce first.

Finality

If you are legally separated, you are still bound by the legal obligations and rights of marriage.

If you want to sever all ties with your spouse and have a clean break, you need to get a divorce.

Simplicity

If you are legally separated, you may have to deal with two legal processes: one for the separation and one for the divorce.

This may involve more time, money, and paperwork than getting a divorce directly.

If you are certain that you want to end your marriage, you may want to skip the legal separation and go straight to divorce.

How to Decide Between Legal Separation and Divorce

The choice between legal separation and divorce is a personal one that depends on your situation and preferences.

You should weigh the pros and cons of each option and consider the following factors:

The laws of your state

Different states have different rules and procedures for legal separation and divorce.

You should consult a lawyer or do some research to find out the requirements, costs, and consequences of each option in your state.

The best interests of your children.

If you have children, you should consider how legal separation or divorce will affect them emotionally, financially, and legally.

You should also think about how to co-parent effectively and maintain a healthy relationship with your children regardless of your marital status.

The future of your relationship

If you have any hope or intention of reconciling with your spouse, you may want to opt for legal separation, which is more flexible and reversible than divorce.

However, if you are sure that your marriage is over and you want to move on with your life, you may want to opt for divorce, which is more final and definitive than legal separation.

Conclusion

Legal separation and divorce are two different ways of ending or suspending your marriage.

Both have legal and personal implications that you should consider carefully before making a decision.

You should also consult a lawyer or a mediator to help you understand your rights and obligations and guide you through the process.

Ultimately, the choice is yours and should reflect your needs and goals.

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