Legal separation before a divorce is a standard process in many states, and the couple usually must accomplish this procedure first in many areas of the country before the legal divorce is possible. A legal separation usually requires the complete separation of the two parties into different households with each living apart and one in the state where the divorce will occur.

The Necessary Process

In many states, to seek a legal divorce for marriage, the two spouses must first spend a certain amount of time legally separated. This requires living in different households or in different towns. Often, the state will require one or both parties to live in the state but in different locations. The legal separation can last upwards of two or more years. In certain states, this amount of time is as low as a few months, but the two must have no romantic interactions. Reinitiating the relationship can counter the separation process and require both parties to start over if they still wish to pursue a divorce.

The Difference in Separation and Divorce

A legal separation is the physical removal of both parties and may even cease all interactions between the two. A divorce ends the marriage completely, even if both spouses want to continue on in an amendable and peaceful manner for friends, family or children. Both situations usually require a complete separation of finances, living arrangements and other benefits usually cease as well. However, a legal divorce may progress to child custody, visitation, support for spouse and child, the division of all assets and debts as well as any other process the state requires. Legal separation does not often necessitate the use of a lawyer, but legal divorce usually does require the help of a legal professional.

Division of the Spouses

In separations that are legal by the state, the two spouses will divide everything. This may not lead to a division of assets and debts or the separate property such as cars, houses, furniture or smaller items, but it usually divides the lives of the two in a legal marriage. This division can end with divorce and sever all ties between the two. However, legal separation through the initial division can help to bring the two spouses together again if they still feel the relationship has lasting potential or is worth fighting for. There are programs available to help support either eventuality.

The Intent to Divorce

The courts of the state of residence may view the separation between spouses as an intent to divorce. This may provide the opportunity to use the time in the legal separation to pursue the option of a divorce to dissolve the marriage in the state. However, if neither party is ready to seek a divorce, the intent may require additional action to prevent the dissolution of the relationship. The courts may also view this time as the required period for the state to progress a divorce case. It is still important to contact a divorce lawyer no matter what conclusion the spouse wants to pursue.

Getting a Legal Separation before Divorce

While many states require a legal separation before the couple decides to dissolve the marriage through a divorce process, choosing this option may become a personal preference rather than the necessary step. Some couples have certain religious affiliations that complicate the divorce process or that will not permit divorce in the religious faith. A legal separation may remain the step taken because of this lack of recognizing divorce in the faith. The separation is a complete disassociation from each other and may provide a completely different life lived by both parties. However, others take this process to decide if
divorce is the right step.

Stopping the Process

Another reason that many will choose to legally separate is because the spouses are not sure if divorce is the next logical step. For a married couple, there are several problems that can cause grief, strife and conflict. The separation can support both in seeking an answer to such issues or in resolving various problems separately. However, the legal separation can also stop the processes of the marriage and help to end the relationship through a dissolution through a divorce.

Legal Separation and the Lawyer

If the couple considers a legal separation, one or both spouses may consider hiring a lawyer to determine if divorce is the next step. The legal professional will provide the options available and explain the divorce process for the state and all requirements.

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