What is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

Deciding to leave your spouse is never easy. It can be a difficult and emotional time, filled with uncertainty about how best to move forward. One of the major decisions you will have to make is whether to legally separate from your spouse or pursue a divorce.

Both options have different legal consequences that are important to understand. The main difference between legal separation and divorce is that a legal separation does not end the marriage.

By legally separating, you acquire legal recognition from the state that you are separated from your spouse, but you remain legally married to them. In essentials, you agree to live separately from them, often with an agreement in place about how any shared assets or debts will be handled. In California, you must have a court-approved separation agreement in place to qualify as legally separated.

Divorce, on the other hand, terminates the marriage. By getting a divorce, you and your spouse can move forward as single individuals. You also may re-marry after getting a divorce. A divorce will entail dividing any community assets or debts according to California's community property laws. Alimony and child support orders could also be instated if necessary. Divorce typically results in more closure for both parties as they can officially move past the marriage and have a clean slate.

Why Choose Legal Separation?

When people think about ending their marriage, they often immediately think of divorce. However, legal separation can be a desirable alternative to divorce in some cases.

While divorce may be the best option for some, there are many cases where legal separation is a more fitting choice, including:

  • Religious or cultural beliefs that prohibit them from getting divorced
  • Wanting to remain on their spouse's health insurance plan
  • Avoiding tax complications
  • Avoiding the disruption of certain benefits like Social Security or veteran’s benefits
  • Needing time apart before making any final decisions about the marriage
  • Not having met the residency requirements for divorce

In some cases, couples may opt for a trial period of legal separation as an alternative to divorce. By legally separating, each spouse gains legal protection as the terms of their separation are legally enforceable. A legal separation can give them space and time apart even while their marriage is still ongoing, which can provide them an opportunity to reunite if they decide they want to reconcile.

No matter what path you choose, it's important to remember that you are not alone. It can be hard to decide what path is best for you, but consulting with an experienced and compassionate attorney can be a great way to get the personalized legal guidance you need during this difficult time.

What Are the Benefits of Divorce Over Legal Separation?

Divorce, on the other hand, allows you to freely move forward as a single individual and close the chapter on your marriage completely. It's important to understand that you cannot re-marry unless you obtain a divorce, so if that is something you are considering in the future, then it would be best to pursue a divorce.

Ultimately, whether you decide to pursue a legal separation or a divorce will depend on your individual circumstances and what will work best for you and your spouse. If you have any questions about which option is right for your situation, it's important to speak with an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process and provide advice for your unique situation.

When Should You Seek Legal Advice?

Whether you're considering legal separation or divorce, it is important that you speak with an experienced and compassionate divorce lawyer who can explain each process to you in detail and answer any questions you may have. While both options come with their own benefits, they also carry certain consequences that should be fully understood before making any decisions.

At Burch Shepard Family Law Group, we have over 100+ years of combined experience helping families through the divorce and legal separation process. We understand how difficult this time can be and are here to provide you with personalized legal guidance and advice so that you can make decisions that are in your best interests.

At Burch Shepard Family Law Firm, we understand how difficult these decisions can be and are here to help. Our team of experienced divorce attorneys can work with you to create a plan that best fits your individual needs and goals. We know that each person's story is unique, and we strive to provide personalized guidance that takes your situation into account.

Contact us online or call us at (949) 565-4158 for more information on our services or to schedule a consultation.