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What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?

If you are considering a split from your spouse, your main options to ensure you are legally protected are legal separation and divorce. While most people overlook legal separation, it can be the right choice for some people.

Right now you may be wondering what the difference is.

In reality, there is one major difference: during a legal separation, you are still married, while after a divorce, you are not. The processes, however, are very similar.

In both divorce and legal separation, you and your spouse will determine alimony and child support (although, in legal separation, they are known collectively as separation maintenance). You will also work out a child custody agreement and negotiate property division.

One of the benefits of legal separation is that it prepares you well for divorce if you are on the fence. If you decide to follow through with a divorce after a legal separation, much of the work will be done already.

A legal separation is also a good option for people who are opposed to divorce because of religious or other reasons. For example, you may want to stay married for some period of time so you can benefit from your spouse's health insurance plan.

We hope this gives you a better understanding of legal separation and how it differs from divorce. If you are unsure of which is right for you, it may be wise to speak with an experienced divorce attorney. An attorney can provide a more in-depth explanation of what either option means for you based on your unique situation.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Separation vs. Divorce," Accessed July 15, 2015

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