If a married couple decides that they want to end their relationship, they have the option to divorce. However, there is also an alternate option to legally separate.
Understanding the differences
With a legal separation, the couple lives apart but stays legally married, which means they cannot marry other people. It allows the couple to separate but retain the financial and legal parts of the marriage.
The spouses may create an agreement that addresses spousal support, child custody, property division or other items. Sometimes, spouses use a legal separation as a trial period to address their issues before they can reconcile. In other situations, it allows them to gradually adjust to the idea of living apart.
Divorce is a permanent process and ends the legal relationship between the parties. They may go through mediation to reach an agreement on any outstanding issues. If they cannot decide, they may need to go to court.
Reasons for legal separation
There are several reasons a couple may choose legal separation instead of divorce. They may need to stay married to continue access to health insurance or other benefits. It may also be helpful if they have complex property division, which takes time.
Sometimes, their religious beliefs may not allow them to divorce. Similarly, legal separation may be more acceptable in some cultures that do not support divorce.
Also, if the couple has children in common, they may also choose to legally separate so they can live apart while continuing to make decisions for their children.
There is help available for couples who need assistance to decide which option is best for them.