Understanding the difference between divorce and legal separation

On Behalf of | May 23, 2024 | Divorce

Marital differences could push couples to the brink of separation. For some, divorce could be their best option to start anew. However, some couples would prefer to keep their marriage while living separately. In Washington, couples experiencing marital conflicts could explore their options in this challenging situation – they could go for a legal separation or a divorce.

Why some couples prefer legal separation over divorce

Couples considering a separation must understand their options to help them decide on the best course of action. Legal separation and divorce may seem the same, but they are different. A divorce ends a marriage entirely, while a legal separation maintains the couple’s “married” status. Couples could opt to pursue a legal separation due to the following reasons:

  • Religious or cultural traditions: There are couples who would like to live separately while keeping their marriage due to their traditions or personal beliefs.
  • Possibility of reconciliation: Some couples live apart as they try to mend their broken relationship, keeping their doors open for a reconciliation.
  • Economic considerations: Spouses could keep their health care and Social Security benefits if they remain married. Staying married could also have tax implications.
  • Decision-making rights: Spouses remain each other’s closest kin, giving them the right to decide during emergency situations.

Both legal separation and divorce allow each party to live their lives independently. They also follow similar court procedures that require couples to agree on a parenting plan, spousal support, financial responsibilities and property division. However, as they are still legally married, they cannot remarry even after years of being legally separated from their spouse.

You can convert your legal separation into a divorce

One key difference between legal separation and divorce is the “married” status. Retaining that status could offer benefits, but it could also offer drawbacks, especially if one spouse plans to remarry. While it is possible to convert legal separation into divorce, it entails another set of court proceedings. The process may be complicated, so seeking legal guidance would be beneficial in this circumstance.

Every case is different for every couple; some may consider legal separation, while others prefer to end their marriage entirely through a divorce. Couples need to contemplate their situation before making this crucial decision. Consulting an experienced divorce attorney could help both parties make informed decisions that are favorable to them.