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If your marriage is not working out for you, and you are considering a divorce, it is possible that you have seen the term “legal separation” and wondered how that is different from a divorce. While divorce is the more typical legal action taken by spouses who want to end their marriage, some choose legal separation for certain specific reasons. Keep reading to learn more about each type of process and how their outcomes differ. At Duluth Family Law we are here to help you navigate this time in your life and offer legal support as your divorce lawyer. 

What is Divorce?

Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage. In a divorce situation, the court declares a valid marriage to no longer exist. Assets and property are divided, spousal support and child support may be ordered, and child custody may be awarded. After a divorce, both parties are free to marry someone else.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation is what its name suggests. It is a legal separation of two parties. They are still legally married, but they are no longer living together. More importantly, their assets and debts are also legally separated.

A legal separation is not the same thing as a separation. You can separate from your spouse at any time simply by moving away. A legal separation gets the court involved to legally take care of money, property, and child issues.

Why Would Someone Choose to Be Legally Separated?

At first, you might think legal separation sounds strange. If you are going to be separated from your spouse, why not just get a divorce and be done with it? Consider the following reasons for legal separation:

  • One spouse needs the insurance benefits of the other spouse due to health conditions or an inability to afford their own medical care.
  • There may be a religious reason to remain married.
  • They may not believe in divorce, but they also don’t want to share their assets.
  • The couple may need a chance to think about their marriage before deciding to make the final decision to divorce.

Legal separation can be a stepping stone leading to a divorce, or it can be a time for a couple to get some distance and then reconcile and continue their marriage.

How is Legal Separation Similar to Divorce?

Legal separation does look like divorce in many ways. It is a legal process that involves the court. Assets and debts are divided between the two parties. New assets or debts acquired by either spouse after the legal separation are no longer considered marital property. Child custody can be awarded by the court, so that the child spends a certain amount of time with either parent. Spousal support and child support may also be awarded.

How is Legal Separation Different from Divorce?

After a legal separation, the two parties are still legally married. They can still hang on to some of the benefits of being married. Furthermore, a legal separation can be ended if both parties wish to remain married and not be separated any longer.

Legal separation does not have the same finality that comes from a divorce.

Which One Should You Choose?

The first question to ask is whether your spouse would agree to a legal separation. Legal separation is only an option if both parties agree to it. If your spouse contests the issue, then the case will likely lead to divorce. A divorce attorney can help guide you through your unique situation.

If you are still wondering whether you should choose legal separation or divorce, we can help further explain the two options. As an experienced lawyer dealing with divorces and legal separations in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, Attorney Benjamin Kaasa can help you navigate this issue and seek the best possible outcome for your unique situation. 

Contact us to schedule a consultation. We are your Duluth, Minnesota family law office.

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