What is the Difference Between a Legal Separation and a Divorce?

There may be a time when a couple must decide whether a legal separation or a divorce best serves the needs of their future. While the two may seem similar, there are differences that should be considered before contacting a divorce attorney.

A divorce is the legal status obtained when a couple decides to end their marriage. There are many reasons a couple may choose to end their marriage, whether fault-based or no-fault. Divorce requires a court order to address property and debt acquisition, child custody, alimony, and child support.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal Separation is a court-order that dictates the rights and responsibilities of a couple while they are still married, but living apart. This court order mandates child custody and visitation, property division and separation maintenance. Separation maintenance is child support and spousal support as mandated by the court.

There are different types of legal separations that a person may choose to obtain, and each of these will affect property division in unique ways.

  • Trial separation: This can be considered the informal arrangement where a couple decides to live apart. This does not have any legal repercussions since it does not involve the court and is easily reversible. Property obtained or loss during a trial separation has the same rights as that acquired during a marriage.
  • Permanent separation: Also known as legal separation, this occurs when a couple legalizes their separation before a court while remaining married. This separation creates a fault line in the property obtained after the paperwork for the separation has been filed in court. Most states will consider any property gained or loss from that point forward is the sole responsibility of that specific spouse.
  • Living separately: This option that means that the couple is living apart with no intent to continue the marriage. Living separately affects property and debt division differently depending on the state in which the couple resides.

Legal separations is an option for couples seeking to work out their issues before looking to divorce. Whether obtaining separation or a divorce, a skilled divorce attorney should be consulted to discuss your options and act to ensure that all property you may be entitled to is yours.

Call a divorce lawyer from the Hunter Law Group or fill out our online form to discuss your property rights today.