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What's the difference between a legal separation and divorce?

When you're in a marriage that isn't working out, you have two real options. The first is to separate, and the second is to get a divorce. Legal separation and divorce aren't the same, even though they have similar outcomes in some ways. For instance, a legal separation can help you divide your assets, but a divorce legally dissolves your marriage. In both cases, you are able to return to living a life on your own and away from your spouse.

With a legal separation, you can work through many parts of a divorce without actually going through one. For example, your attorneys could help you both determine separation maintenance, child support payments and custody arrangements. Property division can also be worked through during a legal separation.

Living separately can be required for a divorce to proceed, so a legal separation can be the first step toward a divorce. By working through a legal separation and all you custody or asset division concerns during a legal separation, you can later seek a divorce without needing to do any further negotiations.

The main difference between a legal separation and divorce is how it can impact you in the future. If you decide you want to get remarried, you will not be able to do so if you are still married to your spouse. A divorce is one way you can end your marriage permanently, allowing you the legal right to marry another person. If you're in that position, moving forward with a divorce is likely the right choice instead of a separation.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Separation vs. Divorce," accessed Nov. 25, 2016

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