When it feels like your marriage is coming to an end, the situation can be very difficult for everyone involved. There are emotional, practical, and financial aspects of a marriage separation to consider — it’s not a question of “breaking up” and that being the end of it. Choosing to end a marriage is a tough moment in any person’s life, but often, it is for the best at the end of the day.
If you are still married and in the process of deciding what to do moving forward, you are in the right place. There are different ways to separate as a couple when you are married, including the two we will discuss today: legal separation and divorce.
Here on this page, we will break down the difference between legal separation and divorce. If you want to know more about your options or rights within either of these paths, contact us today and speak to one of our Maryland and DC family law attorneys.
Let’s take a look at the difference between legal separation and divorce.
Everyone has heard of divorce and understands, in general, what it is. However, legal separation is still a grey area in most people’s knowledge of marriage separation. What is legal separation, and why do people choose to do it?
A legal separation entails separating your assets as a couple and living apart, without completely nullifying the marriage altogether. During a legal separation, a couple lives as if they are not married; some take up new relationships, you can buy a new property, and generally live as a single person.
However, you are still married on paper. At the end of the day, you are still your spouse’s next of kin, and you can choose to rekindle the marriage and reunify your practical lives whenever you wish.
The main difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that a legal separation leaves a window for the couple to get back together without having to remarry.
During a divorce, you are legally freed from one another. If you have children, you might still be required to see each other and pay certain fees in your divorce settlement — but other than that, you are free to live your life, and even marry a new partner if you wish.
During a legal separation, however, you are still married. This means you cannot completely cut ties, and you can’t remarry.
Otherwise, though, the two arrangements, legal separation vs divorce, are largely similar. During both a legal separation and a divorce, you will completely disentangle your finances and come to a custody arrangement if there are children involved. People typically live separately in both arrangements and essentially resume single life.
Ending a relationship is a very personal and private choice, so it’s completely your decision how you go about it. There are some huge benefits to legal separation for married couples who are going through a difficult period in their relationship.
Benefits of legal separation include:
- Taking space in the relationship without officially ending a marriage. Splitting up a marriage is a very serious choice to make, and some couples benefit from living apart while they decide for themselves if divorce is actually what they want. Legal separation can act as a “buffering” period between living as a fully functioning married couple, and divorcing completely.
- You maintain spousal benefits in a legal separation. Married couples benefit from perks such as health insurance from their spouse’s profession; tax breaks; property and mortgage loans; and other helpful financial upsides. When you are legally separated rather than divorced, you can maintain those benefits for each other.
- The couple maintains ties that can help their children become accustomed to the separation. If you are legally separated, you are still tied as a family. This is important to some couples as it helps the children to feel more secure in their family unit, even if their parents have gone their separate ways.
- Religious couples can separate without actually divorcing. Certain religious traditions prohibit divorces, so legal separation is a great way of living apart without technically being divorced.
There are some circumstances, however, that a divorce is more favorable. Benefits of divorce instead of legal separation include:
- If you feel the relationship is unsalvageable and want to cut ties. If both parties feel their marriage is over and done with and there’s no turning back, divorce is the best way to finalize this officially.
- There may be no financial or familial benefits to legal separation in your case. If you don’t get any perks, financially or practically, from legal separation, then divorce is favorable in some cases.
- If one of you has found a new partner and wants to get married, divorce is mandatory. You can’t be married to two people in the US, so to remarry, you will need to divorce instead of legally separating.
Whatever the state of your marriage or your financial or familial obstacles, we are here to help. Here at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl, you can partner with our seasoned Maryland and DC family law attorneys and get peace of mind knowing the legal advice and representation we provide you is backed by years of successful practice and experience.
If you and/or your spouse want to learn more about legal separation vs divorce, contact one of our divorce attorneys who would be more than happy to meet with you to discuss your situation.