Complete Analysis on Legal Separation Versus Divorce

Problem in the marital life is enough to bring a couple to the breaking point where there is no other option left except from ending their marriage. For ending a marriage, there are two popular options available in the US – separation (which includes legal separation) and finally divorce.  In its simplest terms, the difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that a divorce ends a marriage, whereas a legal separation does not.

Let’s have a look at legal separation and divorce in details:

What is Divorce?

Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the final termination of a marital union before the death of either spouse. When you file for divorce it means canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between you and your partner. In simple terms, it takes place after a couple decides not to live together anymore. They sign legal papers that allow them to live single again. After divorce, it becomes legal to go for re-marriage. Laws related to termination of marriage vary considerably around the world but in most countries it requires the sanction of a court or other authority to make it legal.

What is legal separation?

On the other hand, legal separation is very much like termination of marriage but there are certain differences. In a legal separation, the court gives the permission to stay separate for some time but here the marriage is not terminated. Here the couples get some time to think about their relationship and a chance to reconcile their relationship. During the separation period, if things work out well between the couple, they can continue their marriage. Else, they can file for dissolution of marriage.


To get divorce and legal separation, you need to follow a strict legal process in the US. Here are certain basic similarities between the two legal processes such as:

  • The procedure for filing legal separation and divorce are quite similar. In both the cases you need to hire an attorney and file a petition.
  • For both, you need to submit the copies of many important documents such as account numbers, addresses, phone numbers, list of all the assets and debts.
  • In both the cases, the courts define the responsibilities and rights of the couples.
  • In both the cases negotiations are made on certain important issues such as the custody of the child and child support, division of the assets, debts, spousal support, visiting rights, alimony payments, etc.
  • After the negotiation is accepted by both the parties, an agreement is formed.
  • Just like divorce laws and divorce process vary from state to state in the US, the same is for legal separation laws.
  • Since both legal separation and divorce use the legal system, the expenses are simliar.


The key difference between legal separation and divorce is that when you are separated, you are still legally married to your spouse even though you are living apart. To help you make a final decision regarding which one to choose, here are certain differences between the two:


  • A legal separation does not end a marriage in the eyes of law and hence, you can enjoy certain social security benefits which are not possible in the case of a divorce.
  • In a legal separation, your health insurance coverage remains uninterrupted. Whereas when you get a divorce, it also ends the health insurance coverage of a spouse and after the dissolution of marriage you need to pay a higher premium to retain the insurance.
  • After divorce you can remarry, but in legal separation remarriage is not permitted in the US.
  • For a legal separation agreement, there are no residency requirements or waiting period as in the case of a divorce.
  • To negotiate a separation agreement is less stressful as compared to when you negotiate a divorce agreement.

Why Legal Separation is better than Divorce?

Sometimes a couple think that they need to end their marriage, when actually what they need is some time away from each other. The pressure between two married people can sometimes be eased by just staying away from each other. This is why nowadays more and more people are opting for legal separation. There are many reasons why people choose to legally separate but remain married to one another. Some of the benefits include:

  • Legal separation allows you to retain certain social security benefits which would be lost if you didn’t stay married for at least 10 years.
  • Your health insurance coverage under your marriage doesn’t get interrupted and you remain eligible for your spouse’s health care or insurance benefits.
  • With legal separation, both husband and wife can enjoy tax benefits.
  • In legal separation, you are protected from any debt incurred by your spouse while separated.
  • If religious beliefs or moral values do not permit you to end your marriage then legal separation is the best option for you.
  • As in legal separation, the couple is legally married; wife can continue to use your name. There is no need to change the name after legal separation.
  • There is always the chance for a couple to reconcile after spending some time apart from one another. Here you get enough time to think whether to work on your marriage or file for divorce.
  • In legal separation the door for divorce is always open for you. So, if you later decide to get divorced, you’ll have to go through the legal steps necessary to terminate your marriage.

To conclude, a legal separation is ‘softer’ option whenever there is any problem in a marriage, while divorce is a very extreme step without any hope left for the couples to retain their marriage in future. Well, you need to think about the pros and cons of both divorce and legal separation before making a final decision.

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