When spouses want to end a marriage, they have a few different legal options. Divorce is the most common route to permanently dissolve the marriage. However, some circumstances make divorce an undesirable or impractical option. 

Legal separation is an alternative that offers many of the benefits of divorce, but it also keeps certain legal arrangements intact when necessary. 

Divorce is a dissolution of the marriage agreement. In divorce, spouses either come to a settlement agreement on their own or through court. The marriage is then dissolved. 

The key difference in a legal separation is that the marriage is still intact legally. A separation settlement is put into place. This handles many of the same issues of a divorce settlement, including child custody, alimony, child support, and division of assets. 

Why Choose Separation?

Couples choose separation over divorce for a variety of reasons. When they are not sure they want the permanence of divorce, separation is an option that provides space while both parties take time apart to consider whether to divorce or give the marriage another attempt. 

Legal separation allows couples to continue to share health insurance and file taxes jointly. Insurance and tax benefits are the two primary financial incentives to allow the marriage to remain intact through separation. 

Another financial reason to choose separation is spousal eligibility for employment benefits like Social Security or military benefits. 

Employment benefits like these often carry a time requirement before a spouse is eligible. A couple might choose separation so that both spouses can qualify for retirement benefits. 

Some couples are reluctant to divorce for religious reasons. When religious beliefs bar divorce, legal separation is a way to gain some of the same benefits as divorce. 

What are the Different Types of Separation?

There are three types of separation: trial, permanent, and legal separation. 

Trial Separation

A trial separation is what it sounds like: a test run to see how separation works for both spouses. Spouses considering divorce or separation might want to start with a trial separation. 

Legally, not much changes during the period of a trial separation. However, spouses do generally come to an agreement over basic rules of the separation. This includes making decisions over shared finances and who will reside in the home. Parents might set a child visitation schedule, as well.

After the trial separation period, spouses decide to either give the marriage another chance or move forward with filing for divorce or permanent separation. 

Permanent Separation

Permanent separation comes with more legal requirements and consequences. Spouses seeking permanent separation will need to complete a formal separation agreement regarding the division of assets and child custody issues. 

The date of the permanent separation is important. In some states, this date can initiate the waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. The date of separation can also impact other obligations, like shared finances.  

Legal separation is the final step in long-term separation. Spouses need to submit a petition to family court, which helps to change their legal status from married to separated. While no longer married to one another, they are also not divorced and thus are not to marry anyone else. 

State laws can differ regarding legal separation. Some states don’t recognize legal separation and instead provide other options for spouses who wish to avoid divorce. In the state of Georgia, couples can opt for separate maintenance

Separate maintenance is nearly identical to legal separation. However, a judge will not make a final ruling permanently dividing things like assets, property, or shared debt. 

For a legal division of marital assets, couples in states like Georgia may need to choose divorce over the other available options. It’s best to consult an attorney to understand the specifics of Florida state laws and which option might be best for the outcome you want to achieve.

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.
You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.