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Legal Separation Versus Divorce

Divorce vs SeparationMany people winced when they heard country singer Tammy Wynette’s song about love gone wrong in her hit “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” – they felt her pain when she talked about her impending divorce happening that day and how she wished it would never happen.

Sadly the statistics show that about half the marriages today end in divorce.  Those stats are not only staggering, but sad as well, after a happy marriage, meets a few bumps in the road and the next thing you know there is talk of divorce.  Talking it out between yourselves, or, even with the assistance of an experienced marriage counselor, partners realize that they might be better off to live apart and so talk of dissolution of the marriage begins.

What options are there when there is no hope to sustain a marriage?

There are two options for ending a marriage.  Divorce is not always the only course of action.  You might want to consider a legal separation.  Deciding whether legal separation or opting for divorce is best for you might be confusing.  Below is a discussion of the differences as well as the pros and cons of each.

Separation Versus Divorce

Divorce and legal separation have one similarity in that it legally severs a bond between the two partners and creates a wall between you and your spouse.  You will usually reside now in separate households, though some amicable legal separations do find a couple still residing in the same house without issue … it really depends on the couple and the circumstances.  Only now, the finances are separate and once a divorce rears its ugly head, not only are there separate finances for each partner, but you must factor in spousal support, a/k/a alimony, child support, the division of marital assets and debts, all which will be eventually hammered out by counsel for each party, and decreed by a judge.  Beyond the financial boundaries, will be a set of rules, especially where children are involved, such as child custody and visitation.   So, you see that divorce becomes a more final resolution for the faltering marriage … once entered into, there is no turning back.  But, remarriage to one’s former partner is also popular – in fact, worldwide as many as six percent of the population have remarried an ex-spouse.

Legal separation has many good features

Legal Separation
On a more personal level, a legal separation might be looked at as a stepping stone – a stopping point between a faltering marriage and the eventual divorce.  It may be considered a point where each party takes a long and hard look at what has been lost, and, whether the relationship may be repaired and restored to what existed in the past.

But, on a legal level, that stopping point allows a couple to take stock in, and hopefully resolve, any important issues like custody or finances and get the sticking points ironed out, while keeping their marriage intact.  Unlike a divorce, a legal separation is entirely reversible.  In a home with young children, having a legal separation is a kinder and gentler way to keep the relationship on an amicable level because the partners remain married, and there is not the devastation present that is found in divorce.

In some instances, there are those who may have religious or personal beliefs that do not permit divorce, so a legal separation allows the marriage to be sustained, while the partners live completely separate lives.  For partners who enjoy an amicable relationship, a legal separation allows this relationship to continue, with ties to each other.  This might be an option for longstanding marriages, wherein the partner will still be entitled to certain benefits, such as Social Security and pensions, where payments are routinely provided to surviving spouses.

Divorce is more final – there’s no turning back

If the reason for a separation or divorce is because another party is involved, then divorce is the only option if you are interested in remarriage to another person, because technically in a legal separation, the partners are still legally married to one another.  If a child is born as a result of a legal separation, that child will still legally be the child of your spouse.

In some states, before a divorce can be achieved, a trial separation is required.  This may mean that a waiting period of six months to one year must transpire, during which time you live separately and apart from your spouse in order to get a divorce.  In other states, a legal separation literally will become the grounds for a divorce.  Any issues that exist at the time of the legal separation are set forth in a separation agreement, and if the parties are willing to live with the items listed in the separation agreement, then it will eventually convert to a divorce decree after a period of time.

Best Options

While divorce and legal separation are both good options to consider when a marriage falters, it is best to weigh all options before just stumbling into divorce.  For some, the finality and the emotional aspect of a divorce is too much to handle, while a legal separation is a better option, and, maybe a chance to make the relationship return to its former status one day.

Whatever you and your partner ultimately decide, a reputable and top New Jersey divorce attorney with experience in handling legal separations, and drawing up separation agreements, is your best bet to discuss the pros and cons of legal separation versus divorce.  That legal expertise, compounded with the advice of a financial planner or accountant to help you to smooth out any financial ramifications of legal separation.