Separation and divorce are both ways to put distance between yourself and your spouse, but they have very different effects and ramifications.  Divorce represents a legal dissolution of your marriage contract, while separation means that you are still legally married. For some, separation is a necessary step on the way to divorce, while others view separation as their end goal. Let’s take a closer look at the two.

Separation provides couples time and space away from each other but still leaves both spouses’ legal rights and obligations intact. For example, couples who are separated can each still receive Social Security and pension benefits, and can still inherit from each other. Separation can be as informal as agreeing to live in separate domiciles as you work on relationship issues, or a formal, legally required step towards permanent dissolution of the marriage, during which time you work out details of equitable distribution and child custody and support. Depending upon the state in which you live you may need to complete a specific period of separation before you can legally be divorced. You can even be legally separated while still living in the same home.

Notably, when you are separated you cannot remarry or consider yourself single, no matter how many years have gone by. This may be the most important difference between separation and divorce. Divorce is permanent and irrevocable. It breaks all of the ties established within your marriage contract.

Though most people view separation as a step along the way to formally ending their marriage, there are some couples who opt for separating without the legal formality of divorce. There are many different reasons why this may be a preference, including religious ones. Couples who choose not to divorce come to an agreement about how to conduct their lives separately, remaining attached in the eyes of their church as well as the state.

Determining whether a separation or a formal divorce is best for you is a highly personal decision, but it is important that you understand the legal ramifications of both options before you move forward. To learn more, contact the experienced, compassionate divorce attorneys at our firm. We can sit down and explain everything you need to know so that you can make a well-informed decision about your future.

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