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Divorce vs. Legal Separation - What's the Difference?

Jan 20, 2015


Did you know there is a difference between a divorce and becoming legally separated? A legal separation doesn’t end the marriage like a divorce does. It allows you to live separate lines but still remain married. While living apart, you’d have a court order that details who is responsible for what. This is an option for those that want to live separate lives while legally continuing the marriage. Here is a look at the difference between a legal separation and a divorce.

Legal Separation

Issues come up with legal separation when it comes to topics like debt, assets, child custody and support as well as spousal support. You’ll have to deal with the same topics that you’d deal with in a divorce when you choose a legal separation.

If you were to divorce after the legal separation, a judge will assume you were happy with the current arrangement and it will most likely carry over into the divorce. Make sure that you are comfortable with the agreement put in place if you go with a legal separation.

Why separating has advantages

A separation allows you the time apart from your spouse which may help you to resolve the conflict that first initiated the separation. It will help you decide if a divorce is the right path.

You’ll be able to retain medical benefits that a divorce would bring to an end. For those with religious beliefs against divorce, you could maintain the marital status while living separate lives. Military spouses that have been married up to 10 years can reap benefits of the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act which is another benefit to a separation rather than a divorce.  If you stay married for 10 years or more, you can take advantage of social security benefits for a spouse.

A legal separation is a more temporary solution to spousal conflict. If you are happy with the legal separation, you can always move forward with the divorce. Once a divorce is finalized, you will lose benefits, you marital status and will have to come up with a divorce agreement on children, assets and more. Consider which option is best for you and your spouse.

Category: Divorce

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