Legal Separation vs. Divorce: What’s the Difference?

When comparing a legal separation to a divorce, there are a few important things to know. First, the process to accomplish a legal separation is nearly identical to the process of obtaining a divorce. Both options are started when a petition is filed and both end with a general judgment. In a divorce, the marriage is terminated. With a legal separation, couples will remain married. Sometimes a case is started as a legal separation because it is less emotionally traumatic for both parties to initially start a “separation” vs. the finality that comes with a divorce. A separation case can be converted to a divorce at any time during the course of the case by either party. A general judgment of legal separation can also be converted into a dissolution within two years after it is granted.

The Benefits of Legal Separation over Divorce

Many clients ask what are the advantages of legal separation over divorce. A legal separation can be preferable to a divorce in certain circumstances. If for religious purposes a party or parties are unable to divorce, a legal separation will allow them to separate ownership of their property and if needed to receive spousal support and/or child support. Separated couples may also be able to keep certain tax benefits that come from being married. In addition, because the couple remains legally married, health insurance benefits may remain intact, depending on the policy and benefits.

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