In the United States, there are statistics that indicate that half of all marriages will end up in a divorce or legal separation. Often people do not differentiate between divorce and legal separation. Both divorce and legal separation refer to the situation when a couple decides not to live together anymore. But being separated is much different than being divorced.
What does legal separation mean? Legal separation generally refers to a court order which acknowledges that a couple is no longer living together and that all the issues regarding the marriage have been resolved. A legal separation generally means that both parties reached an agreement concerning child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support or alimony, distribution of property, attorney fees, and personal conduct.
However, in a legal separation both parties remain married to each other. Indeed spouses who are just legally separated are not allowed to marry another person.
Divorce, also known as a decree of dissolution of marriage, is also a court order but it is for the purpose to dissolve or terminate a marriage. Both parties are allowed to marry another person following a divorce since they have returned to an unmarried status. An annulment differs from a divorce on the ground that this process is meant at simply canceling a marriage.
What are the benefits of a legal separation? Legal separation often takes place when both parties prefer to stay married for religious reasons. That’s why legal separation is often coined catholic legal separation since it preserves the religious marriage. Legal separation is not only pursued for religious reasons, but also for tax reasons. Unlike a divorce, the non-custodial parent may be able to deduct from his/her income taxes spousal support payments. Some also prefer not to wait for the state statutory waiting period for termination of marital status. That’s one of the reasons why a legal separation is often pursued to set the parameters for dealing with one another while living separate and apart while keeping the married status, and leaving an opportunity for a reunion or resumption of marriage. However being legally separated is not a requirement before filing a divorce. In other words, a legal separation is not a prerequisite of the dissolution of a marriage or divorce.
If you are considering a legal separation, divorce, or dissolution of marriage you would be wise to consult an attorney who can inform you legally about your particular divorce or legal separation matter.