4 Keys To Understanding Legal Separation

While most people understand divorce and the ramifications associated with it, there are many who don't fully comprehend legal separation, or how it's different from divorce. In fact, most people probably aren't aware that being 'separated' and being 'legally separated' are two very different things.  The following article is a brief description of separation in the eyes of the law, and what exactly different stages of the process entail for separating partners.


While you and your spouse may separate without any legitimate endorsement, i.e. you live in different homes and rarely see one another, the law will still regard the two of you as a married couple. You must file for legal separation if you want the law to recognize you as separated.

Filing For Legal Separation

Before you can file for legal separation from your spouse, you must first satisfy your state's residency requirements. These differ from one state to the next, but if you and your spouse just moved to a new state within the last month, you may need to wait before you can initiate the process. Residency is important regarding the court's jurisdiction in the matter, and isn't merely an innocuous prerequisite to make life difficult.

What To Include In The Filing

When filing for legal separation, there are a few documents you need to complete the process. You and your spouse are responsible for drafting a legal separation agreement that sets forth provisions for things like child support, alimony, the division of assets, and living arrangements. If you and your spouse have come to an agreement regarding the aforementioned, than your separation will become legal once it has been reviewed and signed by a judge.

Separation Isn't Divorce

Once you are separated, it is important you understand that in the eyes of the law you and your spouse are still legally wedded, so to speak. A man and woman are still considered husband and wife even during a separation period. However, in some ways this is the equivalent of having your cake and eating it too.

As a separated couple, both parties are generally entitled to a number of benefits not afforded the recently divorced. These include things like continued health care benefits, social security benefits, and certain tax advantages, depending on the situation. Additionally, separation is often a solution for married couples that hold to religious beliefs that prohibit divorce.

Whatever the cause, it is important to understand the being legally separated from your spouse is much different from divorcing them. Although there are certain advantages and disadvantages to both, many struggling partners elect to separate simply because it is easier to reconcile later down the road. For more information, contact a divorce attorney like Law Offices of Gordon Liebmann.