Legal Separation vs Divorce: Understanding the Differences

Legal Separation and Divorce: The Differences

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When you and your partner decide that living together isn’t an option, you have two options. You could go straight for the divorce, or you could opt for legal separation. Although you might think that the two options are one-in-the-same, that’s far from the truth. Each choice is very different, and you should consider the implications carefully before you decide.

What is a Legal Separation?

When a legal separation occurs, you get a court contract that makes it possible for you to stay married while you live apart. All of your responsibilities and rights in the marriage remain intact. You may be more familiar with the term trial separation. For many couples, the separation is a way to determine if they should maintain their marriage.

A separation can be a logical step before a divorce. It gives you a chance to see what life might be like without your partner by your side. Additionally, it lets you calm your emotions before you make any big decisions. During a break-up, controlling your emotions can be challenging. The separation is a way to keep yourself calm and in control.

The Typical Requirements

While every legal separation can be different, there are a few basics that usually remain the same.

  1. You and your spouse will live in separate residences
  2. You and your spouse will remain married
  3. If you have children, a court order will define the custody arrangement and child support
  4. You and your spouse keep joint property and bank accounts
  5. After the separation, you and your spouse can claim rights to any assets you respectively acquired after separating
  6. You and your spouse can keep your health benefits and other joint benefits
  7. You and your partner can make medical and financial decisions for one another if one is unable
  8. If you or your partner dies, each spouse has a right to the assets of the other party
  9. You and your partner may be responsible for each other’s debt
  10. You or your partner cannot remarry until you divorce

Depending on your contract, there may be other stipulations. However, it’s likely that your contract will share many of these basic requirements.

What is a Divorce?

Like a legal separation, a divorce is also a legally binding agreement. However, a divorce dissolves the marriage completely. After the divorce, you and your partner have no marriage responsibilities to each other.

A divorce is similar to a separation in that it does detail your arrangement. For example, your divorce decree will detail all of the following, as well as any other relevant issues.

  1. The amount of alimony you or your partner must pay
  2. Your child custody arrangement, including visitation rights
  3. The amount of child support payments you or your partner must pay
  4. The distribution of property and your shared assets
  5. The division of you and your partner’s debt

One of the major attractions of divorce is the ability for you and your partner to remarry. Without a divorce, you won’t be able to marry once again. The divorce completely cuts the ties of your marriage, leaving you free to move on with your life.

Evaluating Your Options

When you have marriage troubles, you need to evaluate your options. Because a legal separation and divorce both require legal agreements, they are binding. Making the wrong decision can leave you in a bad situation. Before you choose a separation or divorce, you should consider the ramifications of each choice.

If you’re uncertain about your future, a legal separation might be a bad option. Once you get a divorce, everything is over. While you can choose to remarry, a divorce is final. On the other hand, a separation can help you decide if a divorce is the right avenue. The time that you spend apart may be enough to help you make a final decision about your marriage.

In some cases, a divorce might be the better option. If you have no doubts that your marriage is over, divorce may be the best choice. Going through a separation can drag out the inevitable. It can also cost you time and money. However, going straight for the divorce can speed up the process.

Doing Your Research

Before you make your choice, you should look into your state’s laws regarding separation. In some states, legal separation is not an option. You might be able to make your own separation agreement, but the court won’t do it for you. In other states, you must have a period of separation before you get a divorce. Be sure to do your research, and then base your decision on your state’s laws.

If you have any questions about your state’s requirements, you can contact a local lawyer. He can help you learn all about your state’s laws. Additionally, he can help you determine the best course of action. Making the right decision can make your life much easier.

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