Life often presents us with unexpected twists and turns. Sometimes these surprises involve our significant others and are not always of the pleasant variety.
As time passes, not all couples thrive grow closer. Their paths in life may lead them in different directions, causing them to lose sight of the love they once had for each other.
When irreconcilable differences happen, most couples will need to seek either a legal separation or a divorce. These divergences can be benign or dangerous; everyone’s tale is different.
But when it comes to making this life change, for better or worse, many couples don’t have a good understanding of the difference between a legal separation and a divorce, let alone why one may apply to their situation more than the other.
In this article, we’ve broken down the main differences and procedures to help you navigate this difficult period in your life.
Levels of Separation
Before we delve into separation as opposed to divorce, it is important to understand separation in its entirety. Separation is, some may be surprised to find, a category more than it is a state of your relationship.
Separation, in legal terms, can be further broken down into two types:
- Trial Separation
- Legal Separation
Trial separations are informal; the couple decides to live apart, test the waters so to speak. Couples can separate in this manner at any time, as many times as they feel the need. No legal negotiations take place— the couple is simply attempting to determine if this is truly what they want.
A Legal Separation is more intense. It involves negotiations, spousal support, custody, visitations, and more. The couple is beyond a trial separation, but not quite to a divorce. When discussing the differences between divorce and separation, we are looking at legal separation specifically.
Understanding Key Differences
The most important difference between legal separation and divorce is your marital status. With separation, you are still legally married. You have chosen to divide assets, live apart, and share custody, but you are still married.
Marital status affects many things, from taxes to negotiations. Some couples choose to remain married but separate because of this.
Why Some Couples opt for Separation over Divorce:
- Religious or Moral Preference
- Government Benefit Eligibility
- Health Care or Insurance Eligibility
- Tax Benefits
- Chance for Reconciliation
- State Residency Requirements
- Less Stressful Negotiations
- Easier on Children
- Rights to Inherit
If you and your spouse decide to separate, your finances will separate as well. You will have new rules, boundaries, and budgets to abide by, despite your marital status remaining.
Divorce, on the other hand, is the formal ending of your marriage. It frees you to see other people and perhaps remarry. You will undergo many of the same negotiations— visitations and custody, dividing assets, etc.— but there is a permanence in the actions. Separation can end; divorce only ‘ends’ if you remarry and undergo all the legal processes that are involved once again.
Separation or Divorce?
Couples may choose to separate in preparation for divorce for three reasons: as a trial while attempting reconciliation, as a stepping stone to get negotiations underway, or as a legal requirement.
In certain circumstances, some states have rules you must adhere to in order to get a divorce. This can often be a waiting period of six months to a year. In other states, the separation itself is the grounds for a divorce. Your legal teams help you resolve any issues that arose during initial negotiations, you live out the separation agreement, and then it converts to a divorce decree after a set amount of time.
In the case of potential reconciliation, some couples choose to separate while still working on their relationship. A separation is reversible, whereas a divorce is not. Some couples also view separation as a stepping stone, an easier path to help any children cope and buy time to tie up legalities and negotiations.
How Fennell, Briasco, & Associates Can Help
Separation and Divorce can be a difficult, trying and emotionally charged time in your life. Our team can help you keep your head above water, shouldering some of the stress and handling the legal paperwork and proceedings so you can focus on your emotional health and well-being.
Knowing state requirements and your rights are key. We’ll help you understand state requirements, work with you and the other party to ensure a fair negotiation and agreement, and help with the paperwork.
Some separations and divorces are smooth sailing; for these, we’re there to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. When the waters turn rougher, you can rest assured that our team will sail you through.
You don’t need to handle this alone— in fact, it can end poorly if you try. Instead, call our office today and set up a consultation. Let us help you begin the next chapter of your life.