Is Separation the right choice for me?

One question people often have is whether they should separate first, or move directly to getting divorced. Some common reasons for choosing a legal separation instead of divorce include:

  • A couple needs time to figure out whether they want to stay together or get divorced, but are prepared to keep their finances separate.
  • One spouse needs health insurance from the other spouse.
  • Religious views prohibit the parties from divorcing.
  • The parties want to stay married for 10 years to qualify for Social Security and/or military benefits.

What is a Legal Separation?

A legal separation does not end a marriage, though many of the same issues that need to be resolved during a divorce may be addressed. There are two main types of separation, formal and informal.

  • An Informal Separation is just that — informal.  A couple may decide to try living apart without making any decisions about the future. In this instance, the couple may or may not be considered legally separated, depending on their actions during that trial process.  
  • A Formal Separation is a legally recognized separation. This is a bit more complex and can be completed in a number of ways as long as at least one party clearly shows that they no longer wish to be married.


If a couple decides to live apart, and one member of the couple decides they want to end the marriage and behaves consistently with that intent (by dating or expressing their feelings that they want to divorce), then it is possible for the couple to be legally recognized as separated during this time. In this example, an informal separation has become a legally recognized formal separation.

Does a couple have to legally separate before filing for divorce?

No.  It is not necessary for a couple to file a legal separation agreement before filing for divorce.

What happens if a couple decides to get divorced after they were legally separated?

A couple can still file for divorce after being legally separated. Many of the arrangements, such as custody and support agreements, made during a legal separation can help to work through a final divorce settlement, expediting the process.

Would you like help with your separation or divorce?

The Separate.Us team understands divorce or separation can be a challenging life event–we want to make it as easy as possible. Contact us at today to learn more.

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