As a married couple, you may choose to file for legal separation vs divorce to end your marriage or domestic partnership. This allows you to work out your differences while living apart without ending your marriage or doing property division. However, you must understand how legal separation vs divorce works.

Other couples may also divorce because of: a) religious reasons or b) personal reasons. These form the common reasons for divorce. Given these points, below is an overview of the key differences between filing for legal separation vs divorce. Read on to learn more.

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…or continue reading the article below to learn more more about legal separation vs divorce.


Legal separation follows a court order by which a couple remains married, keeps certain marital benefits, but lives apart.


Divorce severs the marital relationship and returns each party to single status. Each party then has the option to remarry or stay single. 

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Overview of Legal Separation vs Divorce

When comparing legal separation vs. divorce, you need 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 & domestic partnership on hold.

During this time, they maintain separate control over their personal finances and personal property. When deciding between legal separation vs divorce, keep in mind that legal separation provides couples with more time to think about whether or not to terminate their marriage. Legal separation therefore precedes divorce.

Legal separation entails more than simply moving out or performing the division of property. The estranged spouse must petition before the court to get a legal separation order. A legal separation order does the following:

  • Divides property
  • Establishes child custody and support requirements
  • Outlines property rights just like the case with permanent separation
  • Establishes social security benefits, and
  • Outlines the parenting plan during the divorce process

Divorce Overview

As you know, divorce symbolizes the dissolution of marriage. If no financial benefit exists when legally separating from your spouse, and you certainly want to end your marriage, you should consider filing for divorce instead of a legal separation.

The same applies if you want to get remarried. In California, divorce takes at least six months to complete. This is in large part due to a mandatory six-month waiting period. This happens after serving the respondent spouse and before entering a divorce decree.

Also, couples filing a no-fault divorce must live separately from each other for at least 18 months before filing for divorce. You can also seek some legal advice from a divorce attorney before deciding to declare your marriage void through a decree of divorce.

You’ll get to know all your legal rights before a formal divorce judgment. You can also have divorce agreements regarding various types of marital property before a schedule for the judgment of divorce.

Separation vs. Divorce: How Do They Compare?

The timeline between legal separation vs divorce differs for married couples. First, in a legal separation, you don’t need any waiting period to obtain a legal separation order for a trial separation. If not sure whether you want a divorce, consider filing for legal separation as an alternative to divorce over a given time period.

Doing so will make it easier to keep your marital status and marital property in the event you and your spouse change your mind about going your separate ways. However, if you have irreconcilable differences separation or divorce is sure to happen.

When defining the difference between divorce and legal separation, you should take note that both processes require:

  • A resolution of the division of marital assets
  • Payment of community debts
  • Making a financial decision on your joint bank accounts after divorce
  • Developing an alternative insurance plan for the sake of child custody evaluation

The dissolution process bears similarities to divorce since it entails the division of assets. However, after legal separation, the separation requirement states that you cannot remarry (it keeps your marriage intact). You can resolve all the other aspects of marriage in the same way as in a divorce proceeding.

It also applies to same-sex marriages. Most couples divorce to find peace from an abusive marriage. A marital settlement agreement outlines how both parties will adhere to the outcomes of the divorce.

Making a Decision on Separation vs. Divorce

When developing an informed decision between legal separation vs divorce, couples that cannot declare their marriage void for religious beliefs tend to seek legal separation over divorce. For older couples, or when the estranged spouse has medical issues, filing a legal separation enables the spouses to remain eligible for health insurance coverage.

Therefore, financial reasons such as health insurance benefits highly lead to a legal separation instead of divorce. Also, this legal action allows the couple to continue filing taxes through a joint tax return. Both couples can also access tax benefits based on the legal separation agreement. Lastly, if you decide to continue with your marriage & domestic partnership, you can have your legal separation easily reversed.

Ask for Help from A People’s Choice

Regardless of whether you choose legal separation or divorce, both entail the completion of a similar legal process. Contact A People’s Choice here for more information on how to file for legal separation or divorce.

We can help you prepare the legal documents needed to file for either one of these 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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