Reviewed by Glen Ashman

Glen Ashman

Choosing between legal separation and a divorce is often a difficult decision. There are a number of things that you need to be aware of and consider. Below are a list of common reasons that couples often choose divorce, legal separation, or both.  Be aware that every situation is different and involves complex legal questions. An attorney is best equipped to help you aid you with the legal problems surrounding legal separation and divorce. 

Get started Start Your Marriage Separation Agreement Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Reasons for Choosing Legal Separation

  • UncertaintyIf a couple is not certain they want to end their marriage, a legal separation may be a good starting point. In the event that the couple decides to reconcile in the near or distant future, a legal separation can be reversed, whereas the same is not true regarding a divorce.  With a separation, there is no need to “remarry” because the marriage was never dissolved.
  • Personal Preference or Religion: For some couples, a legal separation is most appropriate when neither of the spouses plan to remarry in the near future, or they simply do not wish to fully dissolve the marriage.  Sometimes couples choose a separation because they wish to live separately, but want to maintain the covenant vows made on their wedding day.
  • ChildrenThe idea of a divorce can be difficult for children. Some parents choose to legally separate and postpone a divorce until after their children leave the home or until their family is better equipped to deal with the significant lifestyle changes that come with a divorce.
  • Necessary DivisionFor couples that reside in states with lengthy separation periods prior to a divorce, a legal separation is a good option. During the separation period, the couple can resolve matters related to the marriage such as the division of property. This will prevent the couple’s assets and debts from being further intertwined during the separation period.

Reasons for Choosing Divorce

  • Certain Breakdown: If a couple is certain their relationship is over and they have no plans to reconcile they may consider a divorce their best option. 
  • Dating and RemarriageWhen a couple is legally separated they are not free to remarry. If either party is planning to date or remarry soon after separating, a divorce is may be their best option.  In addition, some states consider relationships, dating or intercourse with someone other than your spouse during the legal separation an affair or adultery. State laws regarding adultery vary and repercussions punishment can be severe or costly. For this reason, it may be best to choose a divorce if either party intends to date.

State Laws Regarding Legal Separations

Many states do not recognize legal separations. For instance:

  • South Dakota and North Carolina do not have or recognize a formal process for legal separation. If you are a resident of either state you will need to file for divorce.  
  • Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi and Oklahoma do not offer a legal separation process but they do have similar separate maintenance actions that divides the couples’ assets and other matters while leaving the marriage intact.  
  • New Jersey, Rhode Island and Virginia refer to their process as Divorce from Bed and Board. 
  • Maryland and West Virginia refer to their process for legal separation as a “limited divorce”.

For these states that offer similar actions to a legal separation, a Marriage Separation Agreement can still be submitted with the final paperwork.  You can Use Rocket Lawyer to complete the necessary legal documents quickly and easily online, or you can use our site to Find a Lawyerto help you with your legal needs.

Get started Start Your Marriage Separation Agreement Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Marriage Separation Agreement Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

About Glen Ashman

Glen Ashman offers quality legal services at affordable fees. In addition to having practiced law since 1980, Glen has been a City Judge for East Point since 1988. He is licensed to practice before all federal and state courts in metro Atlanta. He is rated BV (very high) in Martindale and is a Rocket Lawyer On Call Attorney. He is a cum laude graduate of Mercer Law School and a graduate of Emory University.