Some couples choose to file for legal separation vs divorce. Doing so allows them to work out differences while living apart without ending their marriage. In contrast, some couples prefer to legally separate for religious reasons. Given these points, below is an overview of the key differences between filing for legal separation vs divorce. Read on to learn more.

“A People’s Choice helped me file a legal separation. It’s giving my husband and I the protection we each need but is allowing us time to decide if we actually want to divorce.” Tamara J.
“After a 2 year legal separation, my wife and I decided neither us of really wanted to remain married and so we filed for divorce. A People’s Choice made the process very easy.” Kirk W.

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Legal Separation follows a court order by which a couple remain married, keep certain marital benefits, but live apart.


Divorce severs the marital relationship and returns each party to single status so they can remarry if they choose.


Overview of Legal Separation vs Divorce

Legal Separation Overview

When comparing legal separation vs divorce, it is important to understand what legal separation does and does not do. Legal separation involves a process in which a couple remains married but lives apart.  Legal separation allows a couple to put their marriage on hold while maintaining separate control over their personal finances.  When deciding between legal separation vs divorce, keep in mind that legal separation provides couples with more time to think about whether they want to end their marriage.

Legal separation is more formal than simply moving out. A spouse must petition the court to get a legal separation order. A legal separation agreement divides property, establishes child custody and support requirements, and ends future community property transactions between spouses. When comparing legal separation vs divorce, be aware that both processes require a resolution of the division of marital assets and debts. Basically the process is exactly the same as a divorce. The only difference is that after a legal separation you are not free to remarry. All other issues are resolved in the same way as they would be in a divorce proceeding.

When deciding between legal separation vs divorce, couples that cannot end their marriage for religious reasons tend to seek legal separation. For older couples, or when one spouse has medical issues, filing a legal separation allows each spouse to remain eligible for health insurance coverage on a spouse’s policy. Legal separation also allows the couple to continue filing taxes jointly. Lastly, if you decide to continue in your marital relationship, you can have your legal separation easily reversed and return to a married status.

Divorce Overview

A divorce ends a couple’s legal marital status. If there is little to no financial benefit in legally separating from your spouse, and you are certain you want to end your marriage, you should consider filing for divorce instead of a legal separation. You should also consider filing for divorce if you want to get remarried.  

California divorces take at least six months to complete. This is in large part due to a mandatory six month waiting period after serving the respondent before a divorce decree can be entered. The timeline between legal separation vs divorce is different. First, there is no waiting period to obtain a legal separation order. If you are not sure whether you want a divorce, consider filing for legal separation. Doing so will make it easier to keep your marital status in the event you and your spouse change your mind about going your separate ways.

Regardless if you choose legal separation vs divorce, both require you complete a similar legal process. Contact A People’s Choice for more information about how to file for legal separation or divorce. We can help you prepare the legal documents needed to file for either one and save you thousands of dollars in attorney fees. Despite common beliefs, you do not need to hire an attorney to file for divorce or legal separation. Call us at 800-747-2780 or email us today to find out more.

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