What’s the Difference Between a Legal Separation and Divorce?

In the District of Columbia, a legal separation and a divorce are essentially the same when it comes to the requirements needed to obtain one but have very different outcomes.

Legal Separation v. Divorce

Just like in a divorce, the spouses have to (1) mutually and voluntarily (2) live separate and apart (3) without cohabitation. The only difference is a couple can file for legal separation immediately instead of having to wait six months.

Division of property, custody agreements, child support and alimony obligations will be determined in a legal separation similar to a divorce order.

The biggest difference between a legal separation and divorce is that a court-approved separation does not dissolve the marriage. A couple must still file for divorce to legally end their marriage. But a legal separation can make the process of obtaining a divorce easier because, most likely, all of the issues have already been resolved.

Benefits of a Legal Separation

Typically, couples choose legal separation because they want something permanent but may not want to divorce. It gives couples the option to legally clarify issues such as marital assets, custody and child support sooner rather than having to wait for a divorce order. A sense of security is given since the terms can only be modified by court order.

Some couples feel more comfortable legally separating than divorcing for financial, religious, or health reasons.

In some circumstances, couples choose to end their legal separation and reconcile. This can easily be achieved by submitting a request to the court to resume their marriage. Unlike if a couple had gotten divorced, they do not need to get married again.

Contact experienced family law attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel to discuss the best option that will meet your individual needs.