Legal Separation vs. Divorce: What is the Difference?

Legal Separation vs. Divorce: What is the Difference?

When couples are going through a divorce, they might not know the correct path to take. There are several terms that can be used during the divorce process. For instance, many attorneys will use the term “legal separation”. Some couples might think that this is just a fancy word for divorce. It is not. A legal separation and a divorce are two different processes. While they have some similarities, there are more differences between legal separation and divorce.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation is a court order that lays out the rights of the couple while they are separated. In this process the couple is living apart, but they are still married. In a divorce the couple is no longer married. Legal separations are not very common but they can be useful. Couples can opt to legally separate while they are going through any issues that might be affecting the marriage.

Similarities to Divorce

There are not many similarities to divorce but there are a few major areas that are the same in both processes. These include child custody and alimony payments, visitation rights, and property distribution. Handling all of these areas properly is important in both legal separation and divorce. When couples separate for any reason, even if it is temporary, they still have to make sure their children and any assets are taken care of during the separation. Working with attorneys and the courts for separation will ensure that division of custody and property is taken care of in the best way possible.

Differences Between the Two

There are many more differences between legal separation and divorce. The first being healthcare and other benefits. Healthcare when legally separated can still be kept by the couple. This is because the couple is still married. By not divorcing, if one spouse has a medical emergency while separated they have access to the same care that they had before. When divorced, each spouse would be responsible for finding their own forms of healthcare.

The next thing that is – obviously – different is marital status. When couples are legally separated they are still married. When they get divorced, the marriage is over. Another factor that is different is decision-making. When couples are married, then each spouse is usually the prime decision-maker for the other in the event of a medical problem. After divorcing, each spouse will need to find someone else to be their decision maker.

Debt is also affected in both processes. In legal separation the debt still remains for both parties. Since the couple is still married, the are still responsible for paying back loans together. When they divorce, the debt is divided between the two according to who can more easily repay. Finally, couples can more easily reconcile with each other in legal separation. Since the courts have not undone the marriage then couples have every opportunity to get back together. When a divorce is final, couples are officially single. There is no option to end the separation and return to the marriage. The only solution would be to remarry each other.

Seeking Help for Your Divorce

Legal separation and divorce are not processes couples should readily jump into. They require careful thought and advisement from the proper authorities. If you or someone you know is thinking about entering either one, contact Christine Howard today. Christine or one of her team members would be glad to talk to you and answer any questions that you may have. Christine can be reached at or by phone at (864) 282-8575.

Referenced from “Legal Separation vs. Divorce” by FindLaw’s Team of Legal Writers and Editors.