When facing trouble in your marriage, couples typically have two options: legal separation or divorce. However, these two things are actually very similar yet very different, and it can confuse some people. In the eyes of the law, the difference between legal separation and divorce is that with legal separation, you and your spouse are living apart but still married, while with a divorce your marriage is legally over. There are other factors to consider when determining if legal separation or divorce is the right option for you and your spouse.
Separation vs Divorce
Legal separation is less final than a divorce. Most couples who are trying to decide if their marriage is salvageable often opt for legal separation first. This gives you time to live apart yet still work on the things that are important for you. During a legal separation, you will file this with the courts, and the courts will decide on important factors for you, such as child support, custody arrangements, division or marital assets, etc.
During your legal separation, you and your spouse must live in separate homes. However, during this time, you are still legally married, and neither of you are allowed to get remarried or commit adultery. Should either of you do, you could be at fault of breaking the terms of the legal separation agreement, which could negatively affect you.
In order to receive a legal separation, neither party must be at fault for committing adultery or for abandonment. If this is the case in your relationship, the court may not allow you to file for a legal separation.
Should you and your spouse decide to divorce after the legal separation, all of the details determined during the separation (child support, custody, etc.) will usually just remain the same during the divorce proceedings. This usually allows the divorce to take place in a more expedited fashion and makes it easier on all those involved.
Divorce, on the other end, is a legal separation of your marriage, which means the relationship is officially over. During a divorce, all your assets must be divided, and the court will also decide on child custody, child support, etc., if it has yet to be determined. Once your divorce is finalized, you are allowed to legally remarry, and a divorce is allowed by the courts even if abandonment or adultery is committed by you or your spouse.
Benefits of Legal Separation
Although choosing legal separation or divorce is a very tough decision to make, there are some benefits of choosing legal separation vs divorce:
- It gives you time to work on your marriage: Sometimes couples face problems that need to be worked on, and a legal separation allows you to work on those issues while still having your time apart. In some cases, couples who are legally separated work through their issues and end up getting back together and saving the marriage.
- It gives you time to think: The hardest part about getting divorced is the major change it brings to your life, such as living alone and being financially independent. For some people, this time apart allows you to think about what you really want, how you’re feeling, and to see if salvaging the marriage or divorce is the better option.
- It can be less stressful: Legal separation can be stressful, but some people find that it’s often less stressful than actually getting divorced. Especially if you decide to end the marriage down the road, being legally separated first allows you to have most of the important issues determined ahead of time.
- Easier on the children: If you have children, it may behoove you to give your marriage a fighting chance for the sake of the kids. That is if you can work on establishing a peaceful marriage. One of the main battles in any divorce is the child custody part. During a separation, you can test out different child custody arrangements should you eventually get divorced.
If you and your spouse are facing some serious issues, it’s time for you to decide if legal separation or divorce is the right option for you.