How to Make a Distinction Between Legal Separation and Divorce

When to get to the point that you no longer want to stay married, you'll have two options – legal separation and divorce. Before you get into the paperwork, it's essential to understand both processes' pros and cons and how they'll affect you and your partner legally and emotionally.

This article will explain the difference between legal separation and divorce to give a broad perspective on what you can expect from the process.

Understanding the Process

Divorce and legal separation have similar effects on the relationship since they create space between you and your partner. You'll start living separately, and your finance will no longer be connected.

One of the most significant differences between a divorce and legal separation is that your marriage has a formal ending once you divorce. While legal separation, you're staying married will all legalities that follow that union.  Differentiating between these differences is essential if you're planning to remarry since separated partners are still lawfully bound to make decisions together.

Benefits of Legal Separation

Choosing separation over divorce is a matter of personal preference, and every couple has the right to decide what's best for them. Due to religious beliefs or personal convictions, some couples prefer legal separation since they remain married but can lead separate lives without any legal obstacles.

After a legal separation, both partners have the right to use benefits like Social Security numbers, pensions, and other state payments. While some couples do it before they get divorced, many prefer to remain in this status due to custody and financial issues.

Another benefit of this status is that it's completely reversible, and should you decide to get back together, you'll quickly return to married status. With a divorce, that won't be possible, and you'll have to remarry.

Separation as a Step Towards Divorce

There are states where it's obligatory to get a legal separation before filing for a divorce. What's more, you're unable to get a divorce unless you've spent a certain amount of time legally separated. Sometimes, the waiting period can be from six months up to a year.

Legal separation prepares the grounds for a divorce since it gives every couple time to create a separation agreement and agree on all the principal issues. Then it automatically converts to a divorce. Later, the couple only needs to sign the papers to finalize the process.

Types of Separations

Once you start reading more about separations, you'll find out that there's more than one. A trial separation is the least formal type during which you begin living apart from your partner. While you're separated, the same legal rules apply to you and your partner as if you're still married. The money you earn and the property you own are considered jointly owned by you and your spouse.

That way, you can assess whether that's what you wanted. Many couples do it when they experience problems, and for some, this is just a phase after which they get back together. For others, this is one step closer to a final divorce as they come to realize that it's the right thing to do.

A legal separation starts when the court formally declares that your marriage has that status. If legal separation is allowed in your state, all you need to do is file a separation agreement to the court and get it confirmed.

Write an Informal Agreement

If there's a hope that you'll reconcile with your partner, it would be a great idea to sit together and write an informal agreement on finance management and home expenses. You'll have to agree upon how you'll use your credit cards, whether you'll budget everything like before and which one of you will continue living in the family house.

These agreements are significant if you have kids and both of you want to spend an equal amount of time with them.

Permanent Separation

When you live apart from your partner for more than several months without the intention of reconciling, the state regards you as permanently separated. Once the separation is validated in court, your spouse's debts are no longer your responsibility, and any asset that they acquire is not subjected to division during the divorce.

The official date of separation is crucial in the latter process, as it marks the boundary between the married status and partition that will be important for the court. If you move out from the family house without any expectations for reconciliation, make a basic agreement about joint assets and debts, and you can wait until you feel ready for the divorce.

Some people spend years in married status due to their religious beliefs or to keep the family together. What's more, since a spouse can keep all the health benefits, many couples decide to stay together to keep using those benefits.

Differences Between Separation and Divorce

Important distinctions between separation and divorce include child custody and visitation, child support, alimony, and the division of marital property and other debts. While a couple can have an informal agreement on all these topics while they're legally separated, the court will make all those decisions if they get a divorce, and it might not turn out the way they wanted.

Do What Feels Right

couples hand with divorce agreement and wedding rings

It's never the right time to end your marriage, but when the time comes, you ought to face your options. Both divorce and legal separation are valid and useful ways to solve your problems or end a relationship that makes you unhappy.

Should you have a spouse open to negotiation, a settlement is always the best way to end your marriage on your terms.

However, if you're unable to resolve any of your issues, then the court will make those decisions for you. Even judges actively encourage couples to settle their cases outside the court whenever possible. Unfortunately, that's not always possible, and those cases can last up to a year until the process is finalized.

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