Is a Legal Separation the Same as a Divorce?

Divorce Law Firm

When a marriage is on rocky ground, spouses may choose a temporary respite or the more final route of divorce. If you and your spouse are headed towards a split but aren’t sure how to proceed, it helps to understand your options. In some states, the laws require a period of separation before divorce, while others do not. Explore some of the options you may have when it comes to legal separation and divorce.

Legal Separation
For some couples, a time out might be what the relationship needs. Maybe life events have made it more challenging to communicate with each other, and once the air clears, the bond could be fixed. If this sounds like something that fits your situation, a legal separation may be the answer. A formal agreement is warranted if you and your spouse are living apart for several months. The items that can be tackled in a separation agreement include, in part:

  • Income sharing
  • Use of property
  • Child custody and visitation
  • Debt payments
  • Spousal support

A legal separation agreement between spouses is filed with the court and is legally binding.

Divorce
It may be clear that merely separating will not solve the problems that are present in your marriage. Proceeding straight to a divorce will look differently, even if the issues to be resolved will be roughly the same. Divorce differs from a legal separation agreement in that there is no possibility of resolution – the marriage is broken beyond repair. A divorce leaves spouses legally restored to single status. A wife may go back to using her maiden name. The final divorce decree is lawfully binding, and most of the items therein cannot be changed after the judge signs it. The exception to this is child visitation and custody and a change in the amount of alimony. Therefore, when it comes to getting a divorce, you want to make sure you look at each issue carefully since most cannot be modified later.

It is important to note that some states require a couple to live apart and legally separate before moving forward with a divorce. In some instances, a legal separation agreement is required. In other cases, the couple merely needs to state that they have been living apart for a prescribed amount of time. Therefore, it is essential to speak with a family law lawyer, like a COVID-19 divorce law firm in Arlington, Virginia, to get some insight into how to proceed under the laws of your state.

Thank you to the experts at May Law, LLP for their input into divorce and COVID-19. 

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