People use divorce and legal separation interchangeably, but they are not the same. Although both are different types of separations that two people can consider, the two come with their own processes and legal agreements. The main difference between divorce and legal separation is that legal separation is not permanent. In contrast, if you and your spouse file for divorce, the marriage is legally over.

Legal separation keeps you married to your spouse. This means that as far as formal documents are concerned, you will have to continue ticking the “married” box. If you develop feelings for someone else, you cannot marry them until you are divorced. If there is a newborn baby in the picture, the child is legally the child of both spouses unless proven otherwise in court. 

Divorces and legal separations also share a few similarities, such as creating space between you and your spouse. Child custody, child support, division of marital assets and debts, and spousal support are court-mandated for both divorce and legal separation. Depending on your preferences, legal separation can be the better option between you and your spouse because it is not permanent, and it is reversible. 

Why Should I Consider Legal Separation?

Perhaps you and your partner were involved in a dispute and you have both determined that it is best if you moved on from one another. One partner is currently sleeping on a friend’s couch for the past few weeks, but the thought of divorce sounds too intimidating. Legal separation is an effective way of deciding how to move forward. According to the American Sociological Association, 60% of couples who divorce go through legal separation first. Of the couples who go through legal separation, 80% of them end up divorcing. 20% of these couples don’t pursue a divorce. 5% end up rekindling their relationship. The remaining 15% stay legally separated. Even if the chances are slim, you and your spouse might be part of the 5% who end up fixing your marriage. 

All you and your spouse would have to do is submit a request form to the court to resume your marriage, as opposed to divorced couples who must remarry. On the other hand, if you and your spouse do decide to go through with a divorce, a legal separation will facilitate the process of divorcing. A legal separation can serve as a half-way point for couples to either reconcile or divorce. Either path can be a positive depending on your future goals. If children are involved, going through a legal separation can be less intimidating to explain to your children than a divorce. 

How Do I Go On About Legal Separation?

The process of going through a legal separation can either be simple, or as complicated as a divorce depending on the dynamic between you and your spouse. To start the process, you’ll have to meet your state’s residency requirements. Your state’s residency requirements for legal separation will be the same as the ones for divorce, so refer to your state’s divorce laws. If you meet your state’s residency requirements, you can file a legal separation petition. Contact an attorney to help you start a legal separation petition. Besides your petition, you will also have to file a legal separation agreement. This will require you to have a serious conversation with your spouse, even if you both feel reluctant. Both you and your spouse will have to come up with agreements regarding child custody, child support, and visitation rights, discussing the future of your shared assets, spousal support, and going over who will pay which debts. Once you both come to an agreement, all you will have to do is sign the agreement and have it notarized. You will both be expected to follow this now legally binding contract. 

Before jumping into a divorce, it is a smart call to consider legal separation first. This will be the deciding factor in determining whether divorce is the right course of action or not. Contact the attorneys at The Ault Firm today to help you understand the documentation that comes with legal separation.