In a divorce, you are no longer married to your spouse – you are single and free to live independently and remarry. In a legal separation, you may live independently but you are still legally married to your spouse. This is the biggest difference between legal separation and divorce, but the two decisions are more similar than they may seem.
Creating Legal Space
Both divorces and legal separations work to create distance between married couples when it comes to cohabitation, finances, and even children. When you decide to live apart, legal separation protects your financial interests and helps ensure you are not left with your spouse’s debts – or with nothing at all.
You can also use a legal separation to resolve important issues related to your marriage, such as spousal support and child support and visitation. You can work out all these issues via a divorce, as well, but you may lose important benefits in the process. Many people choose separation over divorce to keep tax benefits and health insurance, pool resources, and raise children together. Think of it as having one household within 2 separate households.
Divorce Is Final
Some couples also choose legal separation for religious reasons (some cultures don’t believe in divorce) or because they have hopes for reconciliation. Legal separation may also be an option for couples who love one another and wish to remain married while living apart and managing their own finances and households. Certain states even require a period of legal separation before divorce because divorce so finally separates one spouse from another.
If you’re considering divorce but have uncertainty, legal separation can give you the time, space, and protection you need to weigh your options. Conversely, divorce may be the best option if you are ready to move on with your life, once and for all.
In either situation, children keep spouses linked for life. Whether you use a divorce or legal separation to figure out issues of child custody and support, focus on your children’s best interests and try to maintain a civil co-parenting relationship. You should also avoid dating before a divorce is complete, as this could jeopardize any unfinalized agreements.
As with all family law matters, only you can decide what is best for you, your spouse, and your children.
We are ready to be your fierce and compassionate advocate throughout this sensitive time.