What is the difference between a divorce and a legal separation?

Couples who are experiencing marital strife sometimes decide to live apart for a while in a trial separation. While this can be a good idea for some couples, it is not required before you file for divorce and it is not the same as becoming legally separated. The process for legal separation is similar to the process for a divorce, but there are some key differences.

What Are the Differences?

The key difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that couples who are legally separated are not permitted to remarry. In this way, a separation does not allow you to fully move on with your life. Even with the legal documents, you are still married. Also, when you file for divorce, you must wait 90 days for the divorce to become final. If you are legally separated and decide to go ahead and get divorced, you must wait six months. However, if you decide to reconcile, a legal separation can be undone, whereas a divorce cannot be reversed.

Why Get a Legal Separation?

There are several reasons a couple might opt for a legal separation rather than a divorce. If the pair is opposed to divorce for religious reasons, a legal separation allows them to divide their households and plan for the children without technically being divorced. Some couples use it as a trial separation with the hopes that they will be able to reconcile but want to have legally binding child custody and child support plans in place during the process. Some older couples decide they no longer want to live together, but one spouse is dependent on the other’s health insurance. Some insurance policies allow a couple who is legally separated to remain on each other’s policies, but if this is your plan, check with the insurance company first.

Should My Spouse and I Try Legal Separation?

This is a very personal question that should be discussed with your attorney. A legal separation is not required before a divorce, so it’s certainly not something you have to go through. The process is not really any easier than a divorce as you must divide community property, make a parenting plan, and you may pay spousal support and child support. While it can be reversed, the large majority of couples who do it end up divorcing in the end.

The family law attorneys at de Maar Law can discuss these options with you and help you make the best decision for you and your children. Call us today to schedule a consultation.