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Legal Separation vs. Divorce: What Are the Differences?

Many of us never think we’ll reach the point in our marriage where we’ll be considering divorce or legal separation. However, the fact that so many marriages end in divorce says otherwise. It is an unfortunate reality that almost all marriages hit rough patches, and in some cases, those rough patches result in spouses choosing to spend some time apart or deciding to end the marriage altogether. For those who have reached this point in their marriage, they may be trying to figure out whether a divorce or legal separation is the best option for them moving forward.

How Does Divorce Work?

Divorce ends a marriage. Full stop. Property, such as savings, homes, cars, and furniture, is divided between the spouses. Child support and alimony agreements are put into place. Child custody and visitation rights are set. Basically, if a couple is having marriage problems, divorce is generally seen as the option to end all options. However, between marriage problems and divorce are other avenues that are less final, like marriage counseling. Another such avenue is legal separation.

What Is Legal Separation?

Legal separation does not end your marriage. It is a legal agreement between you and your spouse that allows you to live separately while you figure out whether you want to divorce or get back together. A legal separation should not be confused with a physical separation. A physical separation is like a legal separation as far as the fact that you and your spouse live separately, but unlike a legal separation, there is no legal agreement attached to a physical separation. This is important because a legal separation agreement includes legally binding decisions regarding alimony, child support, child custody, and visitation rights.

Is Legal Separation a Better Option Than Divorce?

In some situations, legal separation is a better option for spouses than divorce. However, every marriage is different, and in many cases, divorce is the best option for couples. Considering the benefits of both divorce and legal separation is a great way to decide which is the right fit for your and your spouse’s situation.

The benefits of legal separation:

  • During a legal separation, spouses can spend time apart to get a different perspective and figure out whether staying married or getting a divorce is the best choice for them.
  • Having a legal separation agreement available if you and your spouse decide to end your marriage following your separation can save you from a lot of legal back and forth down the road. This is because a legal separation agreement can provide the groundwork for a divorce agreement, including preliminary agreements regarding child custody, visitation, child support, and alimony.
  • Unlike a divorce, couples can keep their same medical benefits during a legal separation.
  • There are Social Security benefits to continuing to stay married for a set time that a legal separation allows couples to take advantage of whereas a divorce does not.
  • There are benefits that military couples are eligible for if they remain married for 10 years. Staying married while legally separated enables military spouses to collect these benefits.

In the case of divorce, the benefits include:

  • Enabling couples to reach a permanent resolution regarding child support, alimony, child custody, and visitation.
  • Allowing spouses to leave conflicts from their marriage behind and move forward in their lives, free from issues that plagued their marriage.
  • Giving couples the opportunity to part on good terms and rebuild their individual lives in a way that works better for them and their children.
  • Providing spouses with the chance to gain more financial freedom as individuals than they had as a couple.

Whether you decide that legal separation or divorce is right for you, you should discuss your situation with a family law attorney before you make your final decision. The laws regarding divorce and legal separation are complex and easy to misunderstand. Talking with an experienced family law attorney can help you avoid any legal pitfalls associated with divorce and legal separation and ensure you’re making the best decision regarding your marriage going forward.

Need Help with Legal Separation or Divorce? Contact Us Today!

Our legal team at Leavitt Law Firm has been providing compassionate guidance to individuals, spouses, and families facing obstacles related to divorce, legal separation, and adoption for over 30 years. As our clients have stated in their testimonials, helping our clients settle their legal matters to their satisfaction is our number one priority.

Our experienced family law attorneys are here to walk you through every step of the divorce or legal separation process. Ready to take that first step? Fill out our online contact form or give us a call at (702) 996-6052 today.

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