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Answers To Questions About Legal Separation and Divorce

What does it mean to be legally separated? Is a legal separation the same as a divorce? During your marriage, you may have considered these questions only academically, if at all. However, now that your relationship with your spouse is no longer sustainable, the question has taken on concrete significance.

Many people use terms like “divorce” and “separation” interchangeably. However, they do mean specific, disparate things in a legal context. It is important to understand these meanings to decide which action you want to take.

How Are Divorce and Legal Separation Similar?

When you divorce or legally separate from your spouse, you indicate that you no longer intend to live together and share the relationship you once did. In both cases, you will have to negotiate certain issues with your spouse such as property division, spousal and/or child support, and child custody. There will be a legally binding agreement that outlines each party’s obligations.

How Are Divorce and Legal Separation Different?

The most fundamental distinction is that a divorce ends your marriage to your spouse, while a legal separation does not. While legally separated, you are not allowed to marry anyone else, while a divorce frees you to remarry if you wish. If you and your ex-spouse were to reconcile after a divorce and wished to be married again, you would have to have a whole new ceremony. This is not necessary after a legal separation because the first marriage hasn’t ended.

The availability of divorce and legal separation varies by jurisdiction. Divorce in one form or another is available in all 50 states. However, some do not recognize legal separation. Other states, however, not only recognize legal separation but require it for a period as a condition for granting the divorce.

Why Do Some Couples Choose Legal Separation?

Some couples are not yet entirely convinced that they want to divorce, even when the relationship is not healthy. These couples may choose legal separation on a trial basis to see if divorce is reasonable or determine if reconciliation is possible. Other couples have economic reasons for remaining married to one another. They may receive tax benefits or be close to qualifying for Social Security. Sometimes couples separate so that one spouse will remain eligible for coverage under the other spouse’s health insurance policy.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to separate from your spouse, an attorney, like a family lawyer from Pioletti, Pioletti & Nichols, can review your situation and explain your options to you. Schedule a consultation by contacting a law office.


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