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What Is the Difference Between Separation and Divorce?

Ending a relationship is hard. Even if you have been generally unhappy in the relationship, it is a big part of your life and who you are. There is a comfort in that familiarity, and suddenly cutting yourself off from it is stressful.

Sometimes, however, you just know that it’s time for a change. Things aren’t getting better, and you need to move on. When you are married, that change usually happens through a divorce, but there is another option. Depending on your state, you may be able to get legally separated.

Legal separation is, by nature, a bit vague. For some, it marks the end of a relationship, full stop. For others, it is a chance to take a break and recalibrate.

There are some direct, legal differences between the two as well. In this article, we will broadly compare and contrast legal separation and divorce. You can use this knowledge to help you decide where to go next in your relationship.

Ending or Continuing the Marriage

Divorce completely ends the marriage. If the former spouses wish to reunite, they must either date (not legally recognized as a couple) or remarry.

Legally, separation keeps the marriage intact. Even if the spouses never interact, they are still legally married until they decide to get fully divorced.

Transitioning to Single Life

Divorce is abrupt. Even if the couple has discussed divorce for a long time, the act still draws a hard line in the sand. One second, they are married, the next, they aren’t.

Moreover, the decisions and agreements are also sudden. Many people experience court rulings or mediation agreements all at once. They feel overwhelmed, scrambling to meet the demands of their divorce.

Separation can make the transition to singlehood easier. In a separation, you can make the same kinds of decisions you would need to in a divorce. You can divide property, pay or receive spousal support, create a child custody plan, and so on.

If you decide to move forward with the divorce, all these decisions can simply transfer over. In this situation, the only difference between your separation and your divorce is the legal ending of the marriage.

Why Choose a Separation Over a Divorce?

Some are confused about why you would want to stay married, especially if you know the relationship is over.

Here are some reasons why it may be better separate:

  • Financial Benefits
    If you stay married, you can keep some of your marital benefits, such as health insurance coverage. Some military benefits apply to spouses as well.
  • Cultural Benefits
    Even in today’s world, many people still heavily frown on a divorce. Some religious groups or people with staunchly traditional backgrounds see divorce as a non-option.
  • Relationship Benefits
    Sometimes, a marriage hits a particularly rough patch, but the people involved are not ready to let go. They can use separation as a “trial divorce,” allowing them to see if they are truly happier apart. This could mean realizing they want to be together and working out their differences. Even if they choose to divorce, a separation can give spouses piece of mind. It lets them know they made the right decision, and their divorce was not impulsive.

New York is one of the many states that recognizes a legal separation. If you have questions or concerns about legally separating, reach out to our firm today for help. You can call us at (516) 514-3868 or contact us online.