What are the Differences Between Separation and Divorce?

March 31, 2021

Most married couples will encounter hardships in their relationships. For some spouses, they may come to the conclusion that they need to dissolve the relationship. Divorce is a viable option that many couples choose when deciding to end their marriage. In fact, nearly 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, according to the American Psychological Association. However, some spouses may opt to separate instead. There are some critical differences between a separation and a divorce.

Separation is when the spouses decide to no longer cohabitate, but they are still legally married. Some states allow for a legal separation, and separated spouses are able to handle issues, such as child custody, child support, alimony, and equitable distribution. In Pennsylvania, there is no legal separation, and this should be considered by couples looking to separate in the state. They may not have many legal protections regarding assets and custody schedules.

In a divorce, the marriage is legally ended and spouses are free to remarry and lead separate lives. If a spouse is considering either a separation or divorce in Pennsylvania, it is recommended that they speak to an experienced family law lawyer first.

What are the Different Types of Separation?

It is important for spouses to know the different options available for separation before they pursue a divorce. The types of separation include the following:

Trial separation: This is ideal when a couple decides they want to temporarily live separately to see if they can work on their marriage and reconcile. It is recommended to make an informal agreement about inevitable issues, such as budgets, who will stay in the family home, and whether or not jointly owned credit cards will be used.

Permanent separation: In some states, if a couple decides they do not want to reconcile or divorce, they can choose a permanent separation. Depending on the state, property rights of the couple may change. Debts and assets will also be separated.

Legal separation: Some states allow for legal separation. In a legal separation, a couple cannot remarry, and the court will grant orders about alimony, child support, custody, and property division.

Why Do Some Couples Choose to Separate?

Making the choice between a divorce or separation is personal preference. A couple may want to try a separation before a divorce to see if they can reconcile before ending their relationship. Some religious spouses will opt to separate instead of divorcing as well as couples who are financially struggling. Remaining married does give spouses some financial benefits.

In some states, a separation is required before a divorce. The separation period can last six months to a year. In other states, a legal separation can be grounds for a divorce and the couple can resolve issues that would be settled in a divorce. This makes the divorce process easier if the spouses decide to end their marriage. If the spouses decide to go that route, it is important to speak to a family law lawyer as soon as possible.

Chester County Family Law Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Assist Clients with Separation and Divorce Matters

If you feel confused about whether you want a separation or divorce, the Chester County family law lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can give you guidance. There are important legal differences between a separation and divorce that should be discussed with a lawyer. For an initial consultation, complete our online form or call us at 610-565-3701. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.