A subtle distinction that could affect your family in a big way

Are you going through a trying period in your marriage? If so, you may be thinking about the dramatic but perhaps warranted step of legal separation from or divorcing your spouse. Before you make any decisions that could have long-term ramifications, however, it’s important that you fully understand the distinction between legal separation and divorce.

What is Legal Separation?

While legal separation isn’t quite as “drastic” as divorce, the two concepts have much in common. When the two members of a couple file for legal separation, they agree to live apart and abide by the terms of a court order for the duration of their time in separate residences. When you and your spouse legally separate, you remain legally married until the completion of formal divorce proceedings.

It’s important to note that legal separation can be entered into as a prelude to a divorce. However, it’s also possible to live under a legal separation order on an indefinite or permanent basis.

What is Divorce?

Divorce is a legal process that formally terminates a marriage and results in the division of any jointly held assets and children. Much like a legal separation order, divorce proceedings set parameters for child custody, visitation rights, spousal support, child support, and other critical items that could potentially result in conflict.

Benefits of Separation Over Divorce

Although your decision to pursue a legal separation over a divorce might not eliminate the emotional pain associated with the end of your relationship, it could have some ancillary benefits that make the situation somewhat easier to bear. We’ve listed some of them below.

  • Certain financial benefits, including Social Security and the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, accrue to couples that remain married for more than 10 years
  • Legal separation has certain religious benefits that vary between denominations
  • Legal separation affords couples the opportunity of living apart without the finality of divorce
  • Legal separation orders can be converted to divorce agreements

Regardless of their precise meaning, divorce and separation can be extremely traumatic for the two members of the couple as well as any children involved. For that reason, it’s critical to have the support of an experienced family law and divorce attorney who can advise you on the precise legal ramifications of your situation and help you make the best decisions for everyone involved. To learn more about how we can help you navigate a divorce or legal separation, call us or fill out our online contact form.