Legal Separation vs Divorce
Written by Craig Cherney

Legal Separation vs Divorce in Arizona | Which is Better?

In Arizona, legal separation is a legal process that allows a married couple to live apart and divide their finances while remaining married, as opposed to divorce, which is a legal process of ending a marriage. Neither may feel like a great option. Still, understanding what each means can help. Your unique situation drives whether you should choose legal separation or divorce. Learn more about the similarities and differences below.

Why Would You Get a Legal Separation Instead of a Divorce?

Reasons to get a legal separation instead of a divorce include:

  • Some couples choose legal separation instead of divorce based on religious or moral objections to divorce.
  • Other couples might choose to legally separate when they are not 100% sure that they want to stay married but still want financial protection or to receive benefits such as health insurance coverage (which may still be available from some employers).
  • Legal separation may also allow you to continue filing joint tax returns.
  • Legal separation can serve as a “trial period” in case reconciling the marriage is possible. You don’t need to marry your spouse again if you choose to get back together.
  • Legal separation can also be used to divide debts and assets and keep future finances and income separate just like in a divorce. This will help protect you both from the other spouse’s liability of future personal or business debts.

Why Would You Get a Divorce Instead of a Legal Separation?

Reasons to get a divorce instead of a legal separation include:

  • Some couples get a divorce because they want to end their marriage permanently. They have no need for a trial separation or other circumstances that might cause them to remain married, but legally separated, for some period of time.
  • Some couples get a divorce if they want to get remarried. You can’t legally get remarried if you still have a marriage in place.

How Long Can You Be Legally Separated in Arizona?

Arizona law allows you can be legally separated for as long as you like. Legal separation is not a “step” on the way to divorce; it is a completely different legal status. If the reasons for choosing that status remain in effect, the legal separation can remain in effect as well. If spouses elect to reconcile, the status of legal separation can be set aside. If one or both spouses decide to divorce after they are already legally separated, they can do this as well.

Similarities Between Legal Separation and Divorce

  • Must make agreements on legal decision making and parenting time, as well as community property division (otherwise a judge will make decisions for you)
  • Live separately
  • Both processes take about the same amount of time to complete and cost about the same
  • Community property relationship is terminated

Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce

  • With a divorce, the marriage is legally terminated, compared to a legal separation, where the parties are still married.
  • With a divorce, you are free to remarry, but if you are. legally separated, you cannot remarry
  • Divorce is a permanent change in your legal status, whereas legal separation can be temporary

What is a Legal Separation Agreement?

According to, a legal separation agreement is: “a legally binding agreement between [spouses] to resolve issues such as the division of assets and debt, alimony/spousal support, child support, and visitation.” This can also be called a Marital Settlement Agreement, a Marital Separation Agreement or a Property Settlement Agreement. These documents are commonly used in both legal separation and divorce matters.

Do I Need a Legal Separation Lawyer?

Not every situation is the same. It is important that you consult with a family law attorney who will help you understand what the legal separation process requires. The Professionals at Best Legal Choices can advise and assist with disclosure of assets and debts, allocation of assets and debts, and options for child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and more.

Choosing between legal separation and divorce can be painful and difficult. Doing it all yourself, though, makes it even harder. If you’re still talking with your spouse and you want to go through this process in a way that prioritizes your family’s needs during the process and after, consider the collaborative process for legal separation or divorce.

Seek the advice of experienced counsel to walk you through your options.  to help you make the best decision for you.

Collaborative Divorce is Less Expensive & More Efficient

Divorce litigation can be emotionally draining for you, your spouse, and your children. But it doesn’t have to be that way with the collaborative process in Arizona. The collaborative process can result in a less expensive, more efficient, and less harmful outcome for everyone involved. The legalfinancial, and communication professionals with Best Legal Choices can help you navigate this difficult time in your life.