What is the Difference Between Seeking a Legal Separation and a Divorce?

If you are no longer happy living with your spouse, then you may be considering separating your legal partnership.  There are a couple different possible steps that you can take in order to formally split from your spouse. One option is a legal separation. The other option is a divorce.

What is the Difference Between a Legal Separation and a Divorce?

A legal separation and a divorce are similar in many ways. A legal separation and a legal divorce both can allow you to get a formal contractual agreement in place regarding how custody, assets and money are shared once you are no longer living in the same household. For example, a legal separation agreement and a divorce agreement could both specify who gets to live in the family home, who gets custody of the kids and how much child support the non-custodial parent is required to pay.

However, there are also some important differences between a legal separation and a divorce. The biggest difference is even when you are legally separated, you are still married in the eyes of the law. The marriage has not been dissolved and you are not permitted to remarry or enter into a legal marriage with someone else. When you have formally divorced, on the other hand, then your marriage is legally dissolved and either spouse is free to remarry.

Divorce is generally considered to be a permanent solution while a couple who is legally separated may be considering reconciling or may be working on their marriage even as they live separately and conduct separate lives. As such, when a couple legally separates, they may come to an agreement on certain issues such as custody and support that will last during the duration of the separation but may not include in their agreement details on how every single marital asset should be divided up among the couple. The separation agreement, in other words, can just address the issues that must be dealt with immediately while a divorce is pending or while a couple decides whether to formally dissolve the marriage or not.

If you are unhappy in your marriage but are not ready to take the final step to ending the union for good, then a legal separation may be the best choice for you as it can provide you with important protections but won’t end your ties to your spouse forever. If, on the other hand, you are committed to separating for good, then you may wish to simply pursue a divorce.

An experienced divorce and family law attorney can help you to evaluate your situation to determine if separation or divorce is the right choice in your situation. Your attorney can also help you to draft both a separation or a divorce agreement that protects your legal rights.