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What is the difference between divorce and legal separation?

On Behalf of | Oct 22, 2015 | Divorce, Spousal Maintenance

In Minnesota, there are more status options for couples than couples besides married and divorced. For those who can no longer live together but are unable to divorce for one reason or another, legal separation is a kind of middle ground.

Note that legal separation means more than one spouse moving out of the house. Mere separation does not involve the law. Many couples going through problems separate for a while, then either reconcile or initiate divorce.

However, if one or both of the spouses prefer that this separation become indefinite, some serious questions arise. How do the spouses divide up their marital property? Where will the kids live? Should one spouse provide spousal support to the other?

This is where legal separation comes in. It is a legal change in the status of your marriage, but does not dissolve the marriage like a divorce does. Otherwise, it is pretty similar to divorce. It resolves questions of child custody and parenting time, child support, alimony and property division. It is still possible to get divorced after becoming legally separated.

Obtaining a legal separation can be as complicated as a divorce, so it is not a quick and easy alternative to divorce. Thus, the decision whether to pursue a divorce or legal separation should not be made lightly. For many unhappily married people, divorce is not an option for religious or moral reasons. In other cases, there may be financial reasons not to get divorced.

If you are possibly interested in a legal separation, please consult a family law attorney for more information.

Source: Minnesota Judicial Branch, “Annulment and Legal Separation,” accessed Oct. 22, 2015

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