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Separation vs. Divorce: What's the Difference?

When a couple faces serious marital problems, they might contemplate getting separated or divorced. Most people have heard these terms tossed around and understand that both refer to the end of a relationship. However, there are quite a few key differences between a divorce and a separation in the eyes of the law. A separation is less permanent than a divorce and might be the better option for couples who aren’t ready to call it quits just yet. However, a separation also allows for a few legal distinctions that are very similar to the divorce process in nature. So, in order to make the best possible decision about your next step, your best option is to learn about the pros and cons of either choice.

If you are contemplating either, make sure you know what each entails, how they’re obtained, and how each might help with your situation.

What is a Legal Separation?

Most of the couples who choose to separate do so because they aren’t quite ready for a divorce, but they want to live separate lives. A separation grants couples the freedom to live separately and make their own decisions on a day to day basis while still retaining many of the benefits they enjoyed during their marriage. For example, if one spouse is a military member the other can still retain those benefits. Likewise, spouses who are separated can retain tax, healthcare, and insurance benefits as a married couple.

The process to obtain a legal separation is usually much shorter than a divorce. Your marital status will not change, but you and your spouse will still meet with an attorney, provide full financial disclosure, and make any necessary arrangements regarding child custody, assets, and finances. Plus, if you decide to go through with a divorce after you’ve been separated, the decisions you made during your separation can be carried over to save you time and money during your divorce.

Defining Divorce

A divorce, unlike a separation, is final. Once a divorce is complete, the marriage will be dissolved and each spouse will once again be legally single. When a couple has decided this is their best option, a divorce can help them move forward with their lives, leaving them free to remarry or make various other decisions independent of one another.

Key Differences to Remember

In California, a couple must have lived in the state for at least 6 months and must have lived in the country in which they file for 3 months in order to legally file for a divorce. However, there are no such residency limitations on a separation.

A legal separation isn’t for everyone, and neither is divorce. If you aren’t sure which option is best for your current situation, our family lawyers can provide you with the legal counsel you require.

Contact Singleton Smith Law Offices, Inc. to discuss your case with our Murrieta divorce attorneys.