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Divorce Vs. Legal Separation

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Family law concept. Divorce. Gavel, house and rings
When two people decide to join their lives together through marriage, they do not enter into matrimony planning to end the relationship later. Unfortunately, as couples mature, they can often grow apart.
Many couples find making the decision to end a marriage challenging. Not only do you have to deal with the emotional ramifications of losing your relationship, but you must also deal with the complex financial and legal issues associated with ending your partnership.
The go-to option for many people when they cannot save a marriage is divorce. However, you do have an alternative to divorce: legal separation. Identify the benefits and drawbacks of both divorce and legal separation so you can work with your spouse to determine which option best meets your long-term needs.
Similarities
Divorce and legal separation are similar in many ways. Both are legally binding decisions that can influence your future. You must work closely with a qualified attorney to prepare a petition that you will need to submit to the court when you file for both a divorce and a legal separation.
Once the judge has had the opportunity to review the facts of your divorce or legal separation case, he or she will issue a decree outlining the legal responsibilities of both spouses. No matter if you file for a legal separation or a divorce, you will not be responsible for the future debts your spouse accumulates (and vice versa).
Both legal separation and divorce decrees also resolve important issues like child custody schedules and the division of assets and debts.
Differences
The primary difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that a legal separation does not officially end your marriage. In the eyes of the law, legally separated couples are still married. This means that neither spouse can remarry until a judge has finalized a petition for divorce.
If you or your spouse are older, or you both have no desire to seek out new marriage partners, then a legal separation can help you amicably separate and go your own way. If you think that a possibility exists that you will want to remarry in the future, you might want to file for divorce.
Benefits of Legal Separation
You may find yourself wondering why a couple would opt for a legal separation rather than a divorce. Legal separations can provide a number of benefits that divorce petitions cannot. Since you and your spouse will remain legally married after a judge issues a separation decree, you can use legal separation as a tool to help you decide if divorce is the best option.
If you decide to work things out with your spouse, you will not have to obtain a new marriage license. If you decide that a divorce is best, your legal separation decree can serve as a guide that helps reduce fighting and disagreements over important marital issues.
Another important benefit that you may want to consider if you debate about a legal separation or a divorce is the fact that a legal separation allows you to continue accessing your spouse's health insurance, retirement, and tax benefits. Since your marriage remains legally valid, you can file joint tax returns and claim spousal benefits indefinitely.

Understand how a legal separation and a divorce are both alike and different from one another so you can use these tools to make sound decisions as you split from your spouse. If you want to end your marriage, contact Armstrong, Betker and Schaeffer, PLC, for help taking appropriate legal action. We have two locations and flexible office hours to better serve your needs and schedule.