How are Legal Separation and Divorce Different?

Ending a marriage can be difficult, especially when children are involved. Married couples facing marital disputes have a few options for deciding how to proceed with their marriage. There are financial and personal benefits to a legal separation or divorce.

Lawyer Talking With A Couple About Divorce

With a legal separation, a married couple lives separately (though possibly under the same roof) with court-ordered mandates for the duties and rights of the couple. A divorce completely dissolves a marriage, leaving no duties or rights between the spouses. A family law attorney in Maryland with Parker, Pallett, Slezak & Russell, LLC can help you navigate the legal system during this tumultuous time in your life.

Legal Separation vs Divorce

In Maryland, legal separations and divorces must be brought through the court and approved by a judge. When spouses can agree upon the terms, a legal separation may be more beneficial than a divorce, especially regarding marital property and other marital assets. This can be a beneficial option for many families.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation is like putting your marriage on a temporary hold. During a legal separation, the couple typically resides in different homes in a more formal capacity than just moving out. A court must approve an agreement between the spouses to divide property, end the financial connection with their spouse, and arrange time to raise the children.

Financial Responsibility with Legal Separation

After a legal separation, any new debt incurred by a spouse is typically the responsibility of that individual. Despite the court approving the financial connection to be severed, any outstanding financial obligation or debt acquired as a married couple remains the responsibility of both spouses. In a legal separation agreement, the court can specify which spouse holds responsibility for which financial obligations so there is no confusion between spouses.

What is Divorce?

A divorce is the legal and complete dissolution of a marriage. This is the only major difference between a divorce and a legal separation, and a court must still approve any decision regarding the division of property, child custody, spousal support, and child support. Since legal separation and divorce are similar, the cost would be roughly the same, and the time to process and reach completion would be similar.

Choosing Between Legal Separation and Divorce Proceedings

Married couples must consider whether getting legally separated or divorced is best for their situation. The couple must consider various personal reasons for a separation or the ending of their marriage. Financial considerations are generally a significant deciding factor for married couples.

When to Choose Legal Separation

Spouses may consider a legal separation for the following financial and personal reasons:

  • A legal separation can be reversed if the couple chooses reconciliation
  • Some couples choose to legally keep the family together, especially when young children are involved
  • A legal separation could mean that one spouse is still eligible for the other spouse’s health insurance coverage, whereas these health insurance benefits and coverage would end during a divorce
  • If one or both spouses are not positive they want to end the marriage, a legal separation allows space and time to figure out what is troubling their marriage while protecting them financially
  • Spouses can continue to file their taxes jointly, which can provide them with some tax benefits
  • To receive military and Social Security benefits, spouses must be married for ten years or more. Couples can use a legal separation to stay legally married until the 10-year mark.

Reasons to Seek a Divorce Decree

In different situations, couples may choose to go through the divorce process rather than a legal separation:

  • If spouses find no financial benefit from choosing a legal separation, and they are both 100% positive they want to end their marriage, it may be easier to go straight to filing for a divorce. If a legal separation is chosen, money and time will be spent on the separation only to have to go through the same process again for a divorce
  • If either spouse plans to remarry at some point, a divorce is necessary because they cannot legally remarry when a previous marriage is still legally valid
  • If spouses want no financial or medical decisions connected to their spouse, an uncontested divorce may be the best choice. A contested divorce will be more costly and will take longer to resolve than a legal separation.

Contact Parker, Pallett, Slezak & Russell, LLC Today

There are some key differences between a legal separation and a divorce. If you and your spouse are considering either, a family law attorney from our law firm can help. Contact us today using our online contact form to discuss your situation.