Legal Separation 5

Legally Splitting Without Divorcing

When the marriage appears to be failing, many couples choose to separate first while others seek a divorce right away. What’s the difference?

The most distinct difference between separation and divorce is that a divorce legally and permanently terminates the marriage. Once the divorce is final (and subject to any waiting periods establish by the laws of your state), both parties are free to remarry someone else without any repercussions. A separation, on the other hand, does not terminate the marriage and does not give the parties the right to remarry without first getting a divorce.

Other aspects of the split – such as child support, property division, custody issues and alimony can all be addressed through a legal separation just as they would be in a divorce and in many states, the legal separation agreement can later be converted to a divorce at the request of one or both of the parties.

Why Get a Legal Separation?

While there are a few different types of separation, a legal separation will protect your interests as well as that of your spouse while the two of you decide how to proceed as the separation is documented with a separation agreement or court order. Often couples find a way to work things out and choose to reconcile. With a legal separation, there would be no need to remarry as the marriage was never terminated. For some people, their religious or cultural beliefs prohibit them from divorcing. A legal separation would give them all of the legal protections of a divorce, without the divorce.

And in the event that you do later decide divorce is the right choice, that decision is likely made with a clearer state of mind as you’ve allowed some time for the emotions to settle. In fact, many states require that couples separate first before granting a divorce to be sure that the divorce is really what they want and not just a decision made in the heat of the moment.

How Do You Initiate a Legal Separation?

In order to legally separate, you need to draft a separation agreement and file it with the court. A separation agreement is a document that outlines the various agreements made by a married couple who has chosen to formally separate. Read more about separation agreements…

You may also be interested in this book about “controlled separation” as well as this book about separation management techniques.


  • Christina Newman

    So, from this explain and what I have been told through lawers, I am now confused. My husband went crazy, I have a protective order for my daughter, whitch protects me as well. He is going through the the stress center classes now is what I am being told. The lawer told me I am best to file for a divorce, that is the only way that I am tollay finacially protected, fro m any bills or anything else he might do.

  • Sid

    My boyfriend and his wife got a legal separation 4 years ago. All assets were divided at that time. Now, my boyfriend wants to get the divorce. His wife will lose her health insurance through him, and so she says that if he goes through with the divorce she wants alimony, or for him to forgive a 30,000. loan she has with him. There is nothing in the legal separation docs that addresses insurance, but there is regarding her loan obligation. Can she get an attorney and possibly get alimony or the debt forgiven? He is 72 and retired- she is 54 and still working. They live in California.

  • Jesus

    I been married for 34 years, I got disable from Social Security ($1100.00 monthly + $752.65 from LTD) this year because of a accident in my job, wish I will get a settlement from Work’s Comp., about $40,000 in about a month or so, if I get divorced do I have to share with my wife, she is not working since January 2009. Do I need to pay alimony? Thank you.-

  • Cecelia

    I have not worked since we had our twin boys that 17. I have wanted to go back towork but he would always say it would cost more for me to work than to stay home. If I file for separation/divorce would I be able to claim alimony if he has total custudy of the twins inorder for me to start over?

  • John A Martin

    my wife and i have been married for 10 yrs, we are in NY, i had affair, and we seperated 2 1/2 yrs ago, we had a sep agreement, does it expire after a year, i was rushed into signing it, so i really didnt go through it, my main concern was joint custody of the kids, but since i think it expired, i was wondering we bought a house while married, and it was a result from an inheritance she got for her aunt, do i have any right to have the house, even though my name is not on deen or mortgage