If you no longer wish to continue living with your spouse, you have two formal options. First, you can get a legal separation. This is when you no longer live with your spouse, but you are still legally married to each other. The other option is to get a divorce. In a divorce, the marriage is terminated completely.

What is a legal separation?

A legal separation is a court order that mandates the rights of spouses while they are living apart, but still married. A legal separation is similar to a divorce in that you will still have to negotiate child custody, visitation, division of assets, and spousal support. The key difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that even though you are separated, you are still married to your spouse. Many people choose this option as a way to test out the waters before getting divorced. Others choose this option because they oppose divorce for religious or moral reasons.

What is divorce?

A divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage. A petition is required for the divorce process to begin. Then, temporary orders will be established that will determine child support and custody. After couples negotiate a settlement, a judge will legally dissolve the marriage. Any issues not resolved between the couple will have to be decided at a trial. Divorces are usually pretty costly and can take months to finalize.

Similarities Between Legal Separation and Divorce

The reasons for a legal separation and divorce are generally pretty similar. Whatever the reason, both options lead to a physical separation of the couple. The couple no longer lives together and is required to work through issues related to that. In both legal separation and divorce proceedings, the court decides the following: child custody, child visitation, alimony, child support, and division of assets.

Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce

There are many important differences between a legal separation and divorce aside from marital status.

First, a legal separation allows for the retention of healthcare and social security benefits. In a divorce, these benefits are terminated. Another difference is debt allocation. In a legal separation, spouses may still be responsible for the debt of the other person.

Next, when a couple is legally separated, the spouses are still considered “next of kin” to each other. In the event of tragedy or death, spouses are still able to make medical or financial decisions for one another under a legal separation.

And finally, reconciliation is a possibility when you go through a legal separation. If you are unsure of whether or not you really want to get a divorce, a legal separation is an option that allows for potential reconciliation.

If you are ready to create some formal distance between you and your spouse, consider the similarities and differences between a legal separation and a divorce.

If you are unsure of whether or not you want to get divorced but need some space to work things out, consider getting a legal separation. On the other hand, if you are ready to have your marital status permanently changed, divorce is probably the right decision for you.