Legal Separation Vs. Divorce: Understanding the Differences

You might not think there is much difference between separation and divorce, aside from that piece of paper that says you’re still married. But when you take the steps to legally separate from your spouse, you’ll find that there are actually several key differences, and it’s important to understand the legal ramifications of separating versus divorcing. In both cases you’ll probably split your household, which is to say, you’ll arrange for and maintain separate residences. And you’ll also have to come to some kind of agreement regarding division of assets, as well as how you plan to split time with children, if you have any as a couple. So there are certainly ways in which legal separation and divorce are similar. But there are some distinctions that you’ll want to be aware of so that you can make sure get the most advantage from whatever path you take when you split from your spouse.

The main difference between a divorce and a legal separation is that one is final and one is not. If you and your spouse are having problems and you need a break, but you’re not quite sure you want to throw in the towel just yet, a legal separation can give you the time and space you need, or some distance from the situation, that allows you to come to an informed decision about whether or not you want to continue working on your marriage or if you’d rather part ways. Once you’ve got a divorce, your marriage is over. But if you take your vows seriously, perhaps you just need some time away from whatever emotional turmoil is present in your joint home, so that you can gain perspective and begin to find a solution to the issues that are tearing your marriage apart.

There are other benefits to be gained from legal separation, as well. For one thing, you can continue to enjoy the tax advantages that come from filing jointly. You and your spouse will have to deal with the financial ramifications of splitting your home, of course, including two mortgages or rent payments, two sets of utilities, and so on. But this would happen if you were divorced, too. At least if you’re legally separated you can still gain the financial benefits of filing your taxes jointly. And if you’re worried about supporting a second household, you should be aware of the fact that a legal separation allows you to deal with issues like alimony and child support on a temporary basis, much like you would do permanently in divorce proceedings. In addition, you’ll still have the legal protections that married couples enjoy. For example, you cannot be compelled to testify in court against your spouse (and vice versa).

On the other hand, there are some benefits to opting for divorce. If you have no intention of reconciling with your spouse, a legal separation can cause the process to drag on, whereas a divorce gives you the clean break you’re looking for. And while legal separation does offer you the opportunity to live independently while maintaining many of the financial and legal benefits of marriage, you certainly won’t be able to remarry until a divorce is final. Your best bet is probably to discuss your options with a qualified attorney from a reputable firm like Campo Blumenfeld Attorneys at Law. Your lawyer should be able to tell you which path is best suited to your wants and needs.

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