Legal Separation and Why Would You Want One Instead of a Divorce

I had someone ask me today why would anyone file for a legal separation instead of a divorce.  But before I answer that question let me explain what a legal separation is.  If a divorce ends the marriage then a legal separation just pauses it, but with most of the same results of a dissolution such as division of property and providing for support orders.  The process to file fora legal separation is similar to a divorce, except it is started by filing a different complaint than you would in a divorce, and as I said before, the court can enter orders regarding support, debt allocation, and property division.  One important difference is that after you have completed the legal separation the court declares you legally separated and not divorced, so unlike a dissolution you are not able to remarry.

 So what happens after the legal separation has been ordered by the court.  One of three things can happen.  On; if the parties resume marital relations, then they can file a declaration with he court, and the court will dismiss the legal separation complete.  Two; you haven’t resumed marital relations, then one of the parties can file a petition to convert the legal separation to a dissolution of marriage.   Three; nothing can happen, and the parties can remain legally separated.

There are two reasons why you might want to opt for a legal separation instead of divorce.  The first reason is for religious reasons some parties don't want to divorce, but want to end the marriage, and a legal separation is their best option.  Secondly, is for employment benefits.  Some employer’s benefit plans will allow a legally separated ex spouse to remain on the employee’s benefits plan, where if the employee was divorced, their ex spouse would be removed from the plan and have to get their own coverage.  

Finally, some other important considerations when filing for a legal separation are that legally separated parties can still inherit from each other (absent some provision(s) in the legal separation decree).  Even though the parties are still legally married, for tax purposes they are considered single.  Finally, unless there is a specific reason you need a legal separation it is best to file for a dissolution of marriage.  

At the Law Office of N. Gladstone Brown we are here to discuss your unique situation, and we’ll help you decide the best course to take regarding your family law issues.  Visit our website at or give us a call so we can help you find a better way to get through your divorce or any of your family law needs.