If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, is divorce the right solution? Most couples would say yes, but you may want to consider another option.
Legal separation is an alternative to divorce, and under certain circumstances, it may be the right choice for you and your spouse.
Understanding the difference
Divorce, or dissolution, as it is sometimes called, is a legal process that terminates a marriage. On the other hand, a legal separation involves much of the same process as a divorce, but while the couple lives apart and maintains separate lives, they will remain married under the law. Neither is free to marry someone else.
Why couples choose to separate
Couples often choose legal separation over divorce because of religious or financial considerations. Some religions do not allow divorce. If finances play a part in the decision, it may be because the couple wants to continue receiving the tax benefits they enjoy by filing jointly. Another example is that a nonworking spouse must remain in the marriage for 10 years to be eligible to receive a share of the Social Security benefits earned by the working partner. One of the most common reasons for a legal separation is that it allows a nonworking spouse to continue receiving coverage under the other spouse’s company health insurance plan. Yet another reason to pursue a legal separation is that the spouses are not totally sure about divorce. Having some time apart may help them decide whether to end their marriage permanently or work toward salvaging it.
How it works
The court will issue orders similar to those common during divorce. If you and your spouse decide to separate, you will have to divide your assets and debts. If there are children, you must establish a parenting plan. The bottom line is that you have choices. Depending on the circumstances, a legal separation may be a less stressful and more reasonable option than divorce if your marriage is coming to an end.