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Is Legal Separation Different from Divorce?

Legal separation can change your life in a lot of the same ways a divorce can, but it doesn’t legally end your marriage the way a divorce does.

Ending your marriage is a considerable step to take, so if you’re on the fence about divorce and wish you could get a glimpse of what life could be like before deciding, legal separation can provide that opportunity. That said, the fact that legal separation isn’t as final as divorce can come with its own drawbacks.

What Is Legal Separation?

A legal separation is an arrangement between spouses to remain married but live independently from each other. In essence, the goal is to disentangle a couple’s financial and legal affairs to a point before officially ending the marriage.

Working out a legal separation agreement can feel a lot like working on a divorce settlement. For example, issues such as property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support are all often involved in legal separation.

If the separation is informal (sometime referred to as a trial separation), these issues can be orally agreed upon and conducted without a judge’s approval. That said, many separations are formal and involve a judge’s official approval. The main benefit to a formal legal separation is that the agreement can be quickly converted to a divorce settlement if the couple ultimately decides to part ways.

Why Do People Choose Legal Separation?

People choose legal separation for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • Spouses are unclear if the finality of divorce is right for them
  • One of both spouses’ religious convictions prohibit divorce
  • A couple wishes to live separately but not sacrifice benefits that are only available to married individuals
  • One spouse is experiencing financial hardship
  • One spouse is attempting to qualify for Medicaid

Why Would a Couple Choose Divorce over Legal Separation?

Divorce has a finality to it that legal separation lacks. A couple would choose divorce because they wish to end their marriage and completely sever their financial and legal relationship with each other. Once a divorce is finalized, each spouse is independent of the other to the extent permitted by obligations such as spousal support, child custody, and child support.

Unlike legal separation, spouses who divorce are free to marry other people. This is one of the most important considerations people have for divorce, especially if they’ve developed a relationship with someone other than their spouse during marriage or a legal separation.

Do You Need Legal Assistance?

If you wish to explore your options with either a legal separation or divorce, we at the Law Office of Steven J. Hart can provide the support you need. We understand that splitting up with a spouse can be a complicated issue full of uncertainty. Our goal is to help our clients understand their legal options and render services to help them achieve their own goals.

If you would like to speak with an attorney about this topic or secure legal representation, don’t hesitate to reach out to us online to learn more.

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