What Is a Legal Separation? Pros and Cons You Should Know

During difficult periods in their marriage, spouses frequently look for a way out.

Spouses may decide to live apart for a while in hopes of mending their relationship, or they may have come to the conclusion that there is nothing left and choose to end things with a divorce.

We refer to this as separation. However, do you know what “legal separation” means? This article aims to explain the definition of a legal separation and the formal criteria that a couple must take into account throughout their separation.

A legal separation: what is it?

What does it mean to be legally separated?

When one spouse’s insanity is incurable or their marriage has broken down to the point where they are unable to live together, a married couple may choose to file for legal separation.

In some situations, the couple will decide to live apart on official terms that are either mutually agreed upon or mandated by the court.

A married pair or a couple in a domestic partnership that is not living together as a married couple or domestic partners but has not yet been divorced or had their domestic partnership dissolved is said to be legally separating.

A legally separated couple cannot get married again or form a new partnership since a legal separation does not dissolve a marriage or domestic partnership.

Instead, legal separation serves as a transitional state between marriage or a domestic partnership and divorce or the termination of the partnership.

What is the duration of a legal separation?

For as long as the two of you choose, you may continue to be legally separated from your husband.Legal separations are annulable. You get to decide how long you can be legally separated.

It is not necessary for you to file for divorce at any moment in order to be legally separated from your spouse. It is possible for a legally separated couple to date, but a divorce must first be finalized for the relationship to lead to marriage.

Understand the distinction between legal separation and divorce.

Let’s distinguish between a legal separation and a divorce to gain a better understanding of what a separation is.

Divorce and legal separation are two different legal procedures.

The definition of legal separation is already known to us. It’s a procedure that permits married couples to live apart as long as they make arrangements for their finances and children.

Contrarily, a divorce ends the marriage completely, ending the parties’ legal connection and resolving comparable concerns.

What topics should be covered in my separation agreement?

Give a separation agreement some thought before figuring out how to obtain a formal separation. A marital agreement needs to include some important information, such as the five main aspects that are explained below.

1. Support from the spouse

Legal separation entails handling marital assets, debts, child support, visitation and custody, and spousal support, just like divorce.

A legal separation agreement is often prepared and submitted to the court by the two spouses who seek to be legally separated and who are able to cooperate to agree on the conditions.

This is undoubtedly the better option because it reduces a lot of the stress, feelings, and expenses associated with having the court decide on the matter because of the couple’s arguments.

Spousal support is typically regarded as a divorce-related factor. Certain states may have rules that allow for the payment of separate maintenance, which is analogous to alimony, in cases of legal separation.

States are free to support different laws, thus it’s crucial to understand that the laws will differ.

In the end, it is challenging to predict how a support request would be handled because every state (assuming that it recognizes legal separation) will have different rules pertaining to spousal support or maintenance.

If a state does accept legal separation and allows for spousal assistance during that time, the outcome will depend on the need of the separated spouse and the paying spouse’s financial situation.

2. Children’s custody

The court will provide legal custody rights to one or both of the parents, with the responsibility of making decisions regarding and on behalf of the minor kid. These are choices that affect the child’s surroundings, including their school, their religious activities, and their health care.

The court will almost certainly grant joint legal custody if it wishes both parents to participate in this decision-making process. However, the court will probably grant sole legal possession to the parent who it believes should make all of the decisions.

Physical custody refers to the decisions made regarding the child’s living arrangements. This is different from legal custody because it emphasizes the daily duty of raising your child.

The court may provide single or shared physical custody, as well as visitation rights, for both. This is similar to legal custody. The goal of the rules in many states is to guarantee that, following a divorce, both parents remain involved with their children.

Therefore, courts will frequently go towards a joint physical custody arrangement unless there are specific grounds (e.g., criminal past, violence, drug and alcohol misuse, etc.) that may put the child in risk.

3. Schedules for visits

A separation and child custody arrangement, as well as visiting rights, should be negotiated by the spouses without the need for a judicial hearing. This is often advantageous.

If both partners accept the terms, the plan will be reviewed by the court, and if approved, it will be included in the custody order and the estranged parents’ legal rights to separation. The plan must ultimately be developed with the children’s best interests in mind.

Certain visitation schedules impose restrictions on the noncustodial parent’s visiting rights, such as requiring an additional person to be present during visitation if the parent has a history of violence, abuse, or drug and alcohol abuse.

We call this visiting under supervision. The person in charge of visitation will often be chosen by the court or, in certain cases, chosen by the parents with the consent of the court.

4. Child maintenance

State laws that determine who is eligible for child support differ. Unless both parents mutually agree on a sum, the amount is essentially decided by a family court judge.

The only factor affecting child support payments is who is and is not the kid’s custodian.

A stay-at-home parent is one who has full custody of their child. If so, he or she is insufficiently wealthy to meet the child’s demands.

In order to have more time to attend to the needs of the kid, it is also possible for the custodial parent to work only part-time. As a result, the structure and computation of child support take these requirements and realities into account.

5. The distribution of debts

In many divorces and separations in the US, the allocation and settlement of debts can be difficult and contentious.

Regardless of the identities attached to them, debts accrued during a marriage are usually shared.

It is important that copies of financial records be made by both parties to guarantee clarity and documentation. These documents include credit card balances, bank loans, mortgages, bank loans, credit lines, bank statements, and any other pertinent financial data related to the marriage.

Are you ready for a formal separation?

We have previously researched the details of legally separated meaning so that you can make an informed choice that benefits everyone.

The suitability of a formal separation for you will depend on your particular situation. If you’re unsure about your marital status, think about things like your objectives, the dynamics of your partnership, and any potential legal ramifications.

If you are unsure, getting expert counsel through couples therapy may be a wise choice.

Benefits and drawbacks of formal divorce

For a variety of reasons, couples may decide to remain legally separated instead of divorcing.

However, one must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of a legal separation and decide whether it would be preferable to a trial separation or divorce before deciding how to proceed.


One major advantage of going through a legal separation is that one of the two partners cannot file for divorce due to a religious duty. Legal separation in this case permits the couple to live apart without going against their religious convictions.

Couples can make the same judgments and choices during a legal separation as they would in the event of a divorce. For couples who wish to live apart but do not want to get divorced, it is undoubtedly a terrific alternative.

In the case that they are officially separated rather than divorced, some persons may be able to continue on their partner’s health insurance plan. Legal separation may also have additional financial benefits over divorce.

There is a chance for reconciliation or to resume the marriage after a legal separation.

In addition to being able to deduct spousal support, the legally separated spouse can continue to file jointly for taxes under IRS publication 504.


Legal separation can be just as demanding as divorce, with comparable documentation, trial procedures, and legal obligations.

An already fragile relationship may be further burdened by the legal separation process.For couples attempting to assess the course of their marriage, a trial separation may prove more advantageous than a legal separation due to the expense and time commitment involved.

States that classify sexual encounters with a new partner as adultery include Tennessee and Maryland. This might have an effect on future divorce proceedings, alimony payments, and property split.

The fact that some states demand you to go through the whole legal process in the event that you decide to file for divorce is another drawback of formally separating.

Further inquiries

Let’s get a better understanding of the different facets, legal factors, and helpful guidance related to divorcing your marriage in this part.

When divorcing your husband, what should you do first?

The first crucial step in divorcing your marriage is to place a high value on honest and open communication. Start a discussion about your decision, your plans, and any immediate worries you may have about money, housing, and kids. If necessary, get expert advice.

Are separation and divorce the same thing?

Divorce and separation are separate legal procedures, as we have already covered. While a divorce ends a marriage, separation entails living apart while still holding a valid marriage. Each has ramifications of its own, including asset split, child custody, and financial obligations.

Decide with knowledge.

If you want to go through with a formal separation, assets and debts are permanently divided, and all issues related to custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support are subject to final orders, much like in a divorce.

It is recommended that you consult a family lawyer if you are considering filing for divorce. Reviewing your existing circumstances can allow you to choose whether going through with a legal separation, separation, or divorce is the right course of action for you.