Virtually everyone is familiar with the term “legal separation,” but not everyone understands what a legal separation is and how it differs from divorce. In this post to our Orange County family law blog, we’re going to share some basic facts about legal separation and why some people choose it over marriage dissolution (divorce).
First, let’s clear up a common misperception: legal separation involves more than simply moving out of the home you shared with your spouse and getting your own place.
In many ways, legal separation is similar to getting a divorce. As in divorce, family law attorneys negotiate agreements in a legal separation on matters such as child custody and visitation, child support, property division and spousal support that are then submitted to a court.
Choosing legal separation
Because you stay married in a legal separation, it has for some people a number of upsides, including:
- Health insurance: legal separation allows a spouse to retain coverage, which can in some cases be life-saving.
- Next of kin: spouses in legal separation can still make next-of-kin medical and financial decisions – useful in some situations.
- Religion: for people who cannot divorce due to religious reasons, legal separation offers a viable alternative.
- Taxes: in some cases, people wish to retain certain tax benefits available to married couples (some Social Security benefits are also higher for married people).
- Reconciliation: it’s easier to pick up the pieces and reconcile in a legal separation than after a divorce. If you want to resume a spousal relationship after divorce, you must remarry.
The downside to legal separation is for many individuals the simple fact that they remain married. If there are no religious or financial upsides – and there’s no wish to reconcile – it might make more sense to consider divorce.