If your marriage falters, you need to consider your options. You may consider seeking legal separation rather than divorce. Sometimes this provides a less painful alternative. But choosing legal separation vs divorce creates some limits as well.
A legal separation does not end your marriage. This means you might retain some of the legal benefits of being married. On the other hand, it also limits you in some ways. Divorce provides finality and opens some choices for you that legal separation cannot.
Neither may feel like a great option. Still, understanding what each means can help. Your unique situation drives whether you should choose legal separation vs divorce.
What Is Legal Separation?
A legal separation follows a very similar process as divorce. You will divide marital assets and reach support arrangements. If you have children, you must determine custody (legal decision making) and visitation (parenting time). You decide how to account for any joint or individual debts.
On the other hand, you remain married. This may mean you can own joint property or remain on the same health insurance plans. You may also want to access government or pension benefits together. Usually, these are not available after divorce.
Choosing Legal Separation vs Divorce
One common reason to choose legal separation vs divorce is a religious belief. Many religions do not condone divorce. If you cannot remain married in the traditional sense but do not consider divorce an option, you might opt for legal separation instead.
Benefits eligibility also comes into play. Many couples share health insurance or other insurance policies. Legal separation may allow you to continue this coverage. Couples at or near retirement might look at government benefit eligibility and want to receive those together. Or even the tax benefit of marriage makes some want to stay married.
On the other hand, legal separation is not part of the divorce process. You may want to consider separation on a trial basis, but if you ultimately divorce, you may have a different result.
When Divorce May Be Necessary
If you do not choose to stay married for legal, religious or financial reasons, divorce may be the right choice. When you choose legal separation vs divorce, you are not able to get remarried to someone else, because you remain married to your spouse even though you no longer live together. You leave your spouse but do not have the same freedom to start a life with someone else as you would if you divorced.
Divorce also gives finality. Legal separation can feel like a legal limbo. You are not together, but you remain in each other’s life. You may remain linked financially and otherwise, even as you move on. Divorce hurts, but it may hurt less for some than a legal separation.
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 together, you may even consider a collaborative divorce.
You should seek the advice of experienced counsel to walk you through your options. Contact the professionals at Best Legal Choices to help you make the best decision for you.