Divorce vs. Legal Separation: What is the Difference?

First, a legal separation is less common. There are many reasons why people choose legal separation instead of a divorce. In some cases, it may make more sense for a couple to become legally separated while in others, it may be better to file for divorce. Before deciding which you want to choose, it is important that you understand the differences between legal separation and divorce and the potential benefits and drawbacks of each.

Legal separation has some similarities to divorce, but also has some key differences. When a couple gets divorced, it terminates their marriage. Their property, assets, and debts are divided between them, and the court issues orders regarding child custody, child support, and possibly, spousal maintenance. When a couple chooses legal separation instead of divorce, it is a formal process through which a couple separates without getting divorced. The court will still issue orders about the division of the property and debts, child custody and support, and possibly, spousal maintenance. However, the couple will still be married.

People who are legally separated must answer that they are married on their tax forms and on other forms. They also are not free to marry other people. While many couples who get legal separations will eventually divorce, some choose to remain legally separated instead of getting divorced for a variety of reasons. If a legally separated couple does choose to eventually divorce, the orders from their legal separation can easily be incorporated into their divorce decree.

There are multiple reasons why people might choose to get a legal separation instead of a divorce, including the following:

•• When divorce is against their religious or moral beliefs

•• When a spouse has medical issues and needs to stay on his or her spouse's medical insurance for coverage

•• For immigration purposes

•• To continue eligibility for a spouse's pension and certain types of Social Security benefits

•• To have time to work on the marriage to see if things can be worked out

•• To make it easier on children

•• To preserve property rights in the event of the death of either spouse

In Arizona if one spouse files for legal separation and the other party wants a divorce, the court will proceed with a divorce action as legal separation must be agreed to by both parties.

If you need a legal separation or divorce, please contact our experienced Attorneys at LASITER & JACKSON at (602) 234-5900 to schedule your free 30 minute consultation.

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