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On the topic of divorce law, one of the most common areas of confusion is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce. Both divorce and legal separation involve some break in the marriage. The legal process and consequences, however, are not the same. As a result, each one has a distinct standing under the law. For many couples, this distinction is one that proves extremely important to the decision they choose to make. This article will explain, in detail, the components of divorce and legal separation and how to fully compare them from a legal standpoint.
What is a Legal Separation?
A legal separation is an official separation of two parties who are currently married. A married couple must file for a legal separation, usually by submitting a petition to the family court in their jurisdiction. After a petition has been filed, the law will recognize the couple as “legally separated.” A legally binding court order will be issued, as the courts will take control over certain aspects of the separation. This includes the payment of child support, custody & visitation issues for children, and the division of property. Although separated, the two parties will remain married under the law. Among other things, this means that neither spouse can remarry or change their name while under legal separation. Some couples who file legal separation end up reconciling, whereas others advance to divorce at a later date.
What is a Divorce?
In a divorce, the two parties end their marriage conclusively. Once the divorce is final, neither party has any marital responsibilities to the other, except for those provisioned in the divorce. To finalize a divorce, parties must go through legal proceedings through the courts to terminate the marriage. At the end, a divorce agreement will be created that outlines the terms of the divorce, including custody, property division, and any spousal and child support. For some couples, divorce cases proceed to trial and can be very lengthy as each party argues their side.
Is Divorce or Legal Separation Best for Me?
There are a number of considerations that must be made in choosing between divorce and legal separation. To begin with -- divorce is final, whereas legal separation is not. If you are not confident that your marriage needs to end, legal separation may be a possible alternative. Conversely, if you are sure your marriage is over, a divorce may be ideal. Some couples also choose legal separation for financial reasons, specifically to retain health insurance or military benefits. For couples whose religion prohibits divorce, legal separation may also be an appropriate option.
Getting Help from a Lawyer
If you or your partner is considering filing for divorce or legal separation, contacting a divorce lawyer is a wise next step. Having a divorce lawyer is important for you to have your interests represented in court, and for advice on the best decisions to make. A divorce lawyer will be able to assess your case on an individual basis, and provide guidance on whether legal separation or divorce is the best course of action to pursue.