What is the Difference Between a Divorce and Legal Separation?

Deciding what steps to take to end a marriage can be unsettling. If you are unsure about divorce or are considering alternative options, you may want to explore the elements of legal separation.

A legal separation is similar to a divorce in that it still requires the parties or the court to address each and every issue such as parenting time, legal decision making, child support, spousal maintenance and division of property and debts. However, at the end of the process, in a legal separation the parties are still legally married.

A Decree of Legal Separation is a court order signed by a Judge that mandates the rights and obligations of a couple that are still married, but are presumably living apart, while a divorce has more finality as the marriage is entirely dissolved.

Often times when people are unsure of which path to take, they will start by filing a Petition for Legal Separation. During the course of the case you can change your mind and decide that you want to convert the legal separation to a divorce. Converting while the case is pending is very inexpensive. If you conclude the legal separation case and later decide you want a divorce, you have to start all over, filing in the same case number as the legal separation. The take away here is you want to decide before the legal separation is finalized by the court.

If you, a friend or a loved one would like to discuss a legal separation or divorce and you would like to work with one of our experienced Attorneys, please call OWENS & PERKINS at (480) 994-8824to schedule your free 30 minute consultation.