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Deciding Between Legal Separation and Divorce: Which Is Right for You?

Published: Oct 03, 2019 in Divorce, Family Law, Separation
Couple figuring out if divorce or separation is better

Written by Anthony Piccirilli

When a marriage is broken, divorce or legal separation are pathways to creating a resolution. There are pros and cons to both options; finding out about each process is important before choosing a direction.

Understanding Legal Separation

A legal separation does not end the marriage. The couple remains legally married, but the separation creates physical and financial boundaries. The couple will no longer live together and the separation will create the following:

  • Division of all assets and debts of the marriage;
  • Spousal support, if needed;
  • A parenting plan, if there are children of the marriage; and
  • Child support, if there are children

Once you are legally separated you will be able to live separate lives; however, since you are still married, you are not allowed to remarry. You also will continue to have the right to inherit from each other. Any children that are born to female spouses are legally considered to be the child of the other spouse, unless a court proceeding proves otherwise. Legal separations are not available in every state, so be sure to check your state’s laws.

Benefits of Legal Separation

There are several benefits of choosing a legal separation instead of a divorce:

  • A legal separation provides the couple with a complete break from each other. This can be useful if the couple is unsure about whether they want to actually divorce.
  • All financial matters are settled in a legal separation and there’s no need for the spouse to communicate or work together when it comes to money. Because they no longer live together or have commingled finances, they are able to move ahead with their lives independently.
  • Because the couple is not divorced, their marital relationship legally continues and, should they reconcile after a needed break, there’s no need to get married again.
  • If the couple decides to divorce, all the terms of the divorce have already been worked out in the separation agreement or order and, in most cases, can just be rolled over to become the terms of the divorce decree without a lot of negotiation or a trial.
  • If the couple is not permitted to divorce by their religion, a legal separation provides them with an alternative.

Drawbacks of Legal Separation

The main drawback of a legal separation is that it does not end your marriage so, if you decide in the future that you do wish to divorce, you will have to pay for a divorce. Because a legal separation does not end the marriage, there is still some level of connection that remains, even if you have decided you emotionally no longer have any connection to each other.

Understanding Divorce

Divorce legally ends the marriage and ends the couple’s legal ties to each other. The divorce decree includes all of the following:

  • Division of all assets and debts of the marriage;
  • Alimony, if needed;
  • A parenting plan, if there are children of the marriage; and
  • Child support if there are children

The couple is free to remarry if they choose and have complete freedom to move on with their lives. If either spouse changed their name at the time of marriage, the decree usually gives them the option to resume the use of their pre-marital name.

Benefits of Divorce

Divorce provides a comprehensive legal and financial end to the marriage. All the issues are completely resolved and the couple no longer has ties to each other. Both spouses can move on and never have to think about their relationship with each other or deal with their spouse again, unless they share minor children.

Drawbacks of Divorce

The biggest possible drawback to a divorce is that it is permanent. If the couple reconciles, they will need to marry again if they wish to resume their life as spouses. Additionally, the word “divorce” can simply make things feel more contentious than they need to be. Some couples feel that creating a settlement for a legal separation feels less combative, but when the word “divorce” gets used it can create a more antagonistic tone.

Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC Can Help

Divorce and legal separation are options to consider if your marriage is broken. If you need assistance in carefully weighing the two processes, the lawyers at Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC can assist you in choosing the one that feels most right for you.
Call us now at (412) 471-5100 or our online contact form for an appointment.