The Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce

Apr 15, 2020 General Article

When some married couples feel that their relationships are ending, they choose a legal separation rather than divorce. They can use separation to form guidelines for distance while they attempt to work out their problems. Other couples might prefer separation as it could allow them to live separate lives if they have a moral aversion to divorce. Here is a brief explanation of the similarities and differences between the two legal processes:

The Nature of Separation and Divorce

Simply stated, a legally separated couple is still technically married, while a divorce permanently ends the marriage. They are then free to re-marry.

If a couple reconciles, reversing a separation is generally a quick court filing. Divorced ex-spouses, however, may only reinstate their legal relationship by marrying each other again.

The Marital Privileges Retained With Separation

The legal separation process is often very similar to divorce proceedings and both can be handled by firms specializing in family law Hernando County FL. Separated couples remain next-of-kin and generally keep legal parenting rights over their children. They may continue to share health and other insurance benefits and file joint tax returns.

As next-of-kin, they can make major medical decisions in the event of a debilitating sickness or injury. Additionally, marital properties and debts usually continue to pass to the surviving spouse after death.

The Similar Structure of Divorce and Separation Agreements

Whether divorcing or separating, couples often divide assets and agree to financial maintenance like alimony and child support, generally referred to as “separation maintenance” in a separation agreement. They may also work out the issue of child custody, if necessary, and negotiate visitation schedules for the duration of the separation.

Even couples that are certain that they will find a resolution might consider the benefits of a legal separation. Many things in the future could shift, and a court can enforce a separation agreement if the spouses come into conflict. Finally, if the couple is unable to reconcile, the divorce process usually proceeds more smoothly because they have already made many of the difficult decisions.