Divorce vs. Legal Separation – Making the Best Decision for You
A legal separation can be viewed either as a long-term solution for couples who wish to live apart or as an excellent way to start and tune a process that will ultimately end in divorce.
Legal separation does not terminate a marriage like filing for divorce does. It’s a way to live apart from your spouse while remaining married. You and your spouse will arrive at a set of agreements that will define the terms of your separation – much like with a divorce settlement.
So, How to Decide?
The decision whether to divorce or to get a legal separation is one that depends on the circumstances and interests of individual couples. Each option carries benefits, and it’s a matter of what’s right for you. A good place to start when deciding is to learn as much as you can about the differences between divorce and legal separation and the advantages of going down each route.
Living with the Agreement
You can think of a legal separation agreement as a rehearsal for divorce.
You’ll review all the affecting issues and factors in terminating your cohabitation; custody of children and child support, property and debts, etc. Then you’ll look to include them in the agreement, just as you would in a final decree of divorce.
The main advantage of separation in this sense is that it can allow you to learn to navigate an unfamiliar process – before making any final decrees and decisions. You can experience what it’s like to live with the agreement you’ve made, and if you decide to proceed to divorce later, the arrangements you make can be fine-tuned to fit everyone involved best.
It’s important to make the best use of the separation process and consider carefully any agreements you make. Try to address all your concerns and to find something that’s going to work well for all parties. Then, if you do proceed to a divorce later, you’ll have the basis for an agreement that works. It’ll be more accessible to fine tune that already-formed agreement based on your experience of living with the terms of the separation.
Divorce After Separation
Once you’ve gone through a period of separation, if you then wish to proceed to divorce, a judge may look at the agreement of your separation and base a divorce settlement on those terms.
In a case where a party or both parties do not view the separation agreement, to have been entirely successful, a judge may look to use the terms of that agreement by examining the factors that caused problems, to try and reach a successful divorce settlement.
In this way, a separation agreement can iron out the creases in living apart and is more achievable than attempting to find a successful settlement right from the word go. Living with an agreement is a great way to identify its strong and weak points.
Advantages of Legal Separation
Legal separation can be a great help and provide relief to couples embroiled in an acrimonious relationship. It can give the physical distance required to address problems without letting the conflict take over, in what can be a very emotional situation.
Legal separation can also be a great way to end a problematic relationship, where one or both partners hold a religious belief that prevents them from entirely divorcing.
Divorce and legal separation have similar benefits. Both enable space between you and your spouse. You live apart. You’re financially independent. Spousal support is agreed and arranged, allowing both parties to live comfortably. Allowances are made for custody of children and child support. Assets and debts associated with the relationship are assessed and divided up fairly.
Legal separation provides a solution, that is fair and can be very productive, without the finality of divorce.