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Divorce and Legal Separation: What’s the Difference?

When two people find themselves standing before an officiant and saying their wedding vows before one another, the furthest thing on their minds is that one day they would contemplate standing before a judge to dissolve their marriage. Yet as amazing as marriage can be, sometimes one can never predict just how hard it is too.

Sometimes, when a husband or wife (or both) consult with an attorney to talk about their situation, one thing that they’ll suggest to them is filing for a legal separation before actually going through with a divorce.

Although you’ve probably heard of a legal separation before, there might be a part of you that’s wondering what the real difference is between that and fully dissolving the marriage. That’s why we wanted to provide you with some of the “benefits” that can come with taking that step before you contemplate ending your marriage.

The Advantages of Having a Legal Separation

One of the biggest reasons to go with the option of a legal separation is if one or both of you have some serious problems in your marriage but you are hoping that you can work it out either through some time and space and/or marriage counseling. However, being that a separation still means that you are married to your partner, you both are still eligible for one another’s government benefits, health care and insurance coverage and tax benefits too. Do keep in mind that because it is a legal matter that it’s a good idea to either speak with a financial planner or accountant beforehand so that you can get a clear idea of all of the ramifications that come with actually being legally separated.

Also take special note that there is another reason why you may have a legal separation and that is if your state sanctions a required amount of time for the two of you to be separated before actually finalizing your divorce.

What It Means to Get a Divorce

If while you were separated, you tried to get some divorce help and it did not prove to be successful, then in most cases, filing for a divorce is the next logical step. This means that you are both making the choice to terminate your marriage altogether. The reason why it’s important for both spouses to have an attorney for this decision is because a divorce is the separation of assets. Plus, within the divorce decree, the things that are usually discussed include alimony, property division and if there are children involved, custody, visitation and child support.

The way that you go about getting a divorce decree is filing for one through the courthouse in the state which you live. If the decree is uncontested and either you have been legally separated for a significant amount of time before filing or it has been six months to a year (depending on the state), you can usually get your divorce finalized. Once this happens, either the county clerk or your attorney will mail you a copy of the decree for you to sign, you’ll send it back to the courthouse and they will keep it there on record. And then you will be considered legally divorced.

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