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Legal Separation Versus Divorce

Gene Kirzhner Oct. 29, 2017

Legal separation and divorce are two words we never want to hear. For couples wishing to part ways, however, they are two options to consider. With nearly 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, knowing your options if your relationship ends is more important than ever. But what is the difference between the two? What is the difference between legal separation versus divorce? We discuss this – and more – in today’s blog post.

Legal Seperation versus Divorce

Over one-third of all marriages end in divorce each and an untold amount experience legal separation. Add to that the fact that over half of every first time marriage ends in divorce, and you get an idea of the state of marriage in America.

While those numbers may seem disheartening, the fact of the matter is many couples never divorce and not every couple who separates nullifies their relationship. In fact, there are many cases where couples that go through a divorce re-marry and even more situations where a little time apart leads to an even stronger coupling.

Learn more about marriage statistics from the American Psychological Association.

Still, in the event that you – or your spouse – decides to end the marriage, you should know the difference between legal separation versus divorce. What’s more, you need to understand the legal ramifications of both options.

What Is Legal Separation?

If you decide to end your relationship, divorce is not your only option. Legal separation may be a better choice, depending on your situation. But what, exactly, is legal separation? In short, in a legal separation, the couple remains married, yet live separately.

During this process, a court decides the specific rights of each spouse and their obligations. While rare, legal separations offer a married couple the ability to work through issues. Taking time – and literal space – both spouses, can seek ways to resolve personal and financial issues that would normally lead to a divorce.

In a court proceeding, a legal separation is similar, in some ways, to a divorce proceeding. For starters, the court will decide on separation maintenance. This is the same as child support (if applicable) and spousal support. Note that these rulings often affect divorce proceedings, should the couple not be able to reconcile.

As with a divorce, things get more complicated if children are involved. If this is the case, the court will decide who gets child custody and visitation rights. If the couple has joint property, the court may also rule on the division of property and other assets.

Property division, in particular, can get complicated, as the type of legal separation can affect who gets what.

Types of Separation

There are technically four types of separation. For starters, we will discuss trial separation. This occurs when a couple, on their own, choose to separate for a given amount of time. The thought here is that a little time apart will help resolve issues. There is no real legal effect in place during this time and property, and debt gets treated as if it accumulated during marriage. Only once a full legal separation is sought does this change.

If the married couple decides to live in separate dwellings, this is known as living separately. In these cases, property division is certainly a consideration. The accumulation of property or debt while living separately is classified by courts differently, as determined by individual state rulings.

A third type of separation is known as permanent separation. If a couple decides to part ways without filing legal documents, this is known as a permanent separation.

Benefits of Legal Separation versus Divorce

Perhaps the primary benefit to legal separation versus divorce is this: legal separations are not permanent. It gives the couple an opportunity to experience life without each other. Sometimes this insight is enough to repair the marriage. It also provides the couple the opportunity to work on personal problems that could be affecting the relationship.

If the couple has children, a legal separation can benefit their kids. Divorce proceedings are difficult on a child, and a temporary separation may lead to reconciliation. This is ideal for children, as it would save them the stress of the divorce process. It also saves them the agony of losing one of their parents.

Another benefit to legal separation versus divorce has to do with money. The simple fact is, divorces are expensive. Legal separations allow for a couple to avoid some of the legal fees and court costs associated with a divorce – especially if it is not an amicable split.

Family and Divorce Lawyers in Rhode Island

Would you like to learn more about the pros and cons of legal separations versus divorce? If so, contact the Rhode Island family and divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Howe and Garside, LTD. and see how we can help in your divorce, child custody, child support, and mediation case.