Legal separation is a family law term that is commonly misused and misunderstood. It does not mean that married spouses simply decided to live apart. Even if both parties agree to a permanent physical separation, it does not constitute a legal separation.

Legal Separation vs. Divorce

A legal separation is a family court action very similar to divorce. Both actions are initiated the same way and both involve property division, child custody and support, and spousal maintenance, if appropriate.

The most obvious difference, however, is that legally separated spouses remain legally married. This means that neither spouse can remarry without first filing for divorce.

Benefits of Legal Separation

Couples who choose to legally separate usually do so for its unique advantages. Separation may allow spouses to retain medical insurance, military benefits, social security benefits, or other perquisites only available to married couples. Other couples choose to legally separate rather than divorce because their religious beliefs discourage or prohibit divorce.

A legal separation may be obtained collaboratively, if both spouses agree, or it may be contested and require litigation. However, if one spouse files for legal separation and the other files for divorce, the parties will proceed to divorce. Contact our family law attorneys for a free consultation to discuss legal separation or divorce.