The end of a marriage is a difficult time. There are many important decisions to be made ranging from where the children will live to who will keep the marital residence to how the bills will get paid. One decision that many couples face is whether to seek a legal separation or a divorce. Before making that decision, it is imperative to understand the differences between separation and divorce.
Separation and legal separation are two different concepts. Separation simply means that the parties have decided to live apart. It is not necessary to file any legal paperwork to separate – either party can move out and live separately from the other spouse at any time for any reason. Legal separation, on the other hand, requires court involvement. To be legally separated, one party must serve and file a petition with the court, just as you would with a divorce. In a legal separation action, the court can enter an order dividing bills, providing custody of the children to one or both of the parents, setting spousal support, or almost any of the other actions that people usually think of with a divorce. The big difference from divorce, however, is that at the completion of a legal separation, the parties are still married.
A divorce, by contrast, is a dissolution of a marriage. Just like a legal separation, a divorce action can create a parenting order, divide property, and order child or spousal support. At the conclusion of the divorce, the parties are no longer married. The parties are then free to remarry when and if they choose.
An important thing to remember is that a legal separation action can often be just as long, complicated, and expensive as a divorce. In addition, legal separation and divorce can achieve almost all of the same goals. There are some reasons, however, why some clients may choose to pursue a legal separation instead of a divorce. One common reason for remaining married is religious conviction. Another common reason is financial considerations. For example, because you are still married following a legal separation, it is more than likely that both spouses can remain on the same health insurance policy.
We are experienced in helping our clients understand their options. Call us right away for an appointment to talk about how we can help you.