Divorce vs. Legal Separation: The Legal Guide to Splitting Up

Is your marriage reaching its wit’s end? If “on the rocks” best describes your relationship, it may be time to reconsider the “I dos” and cut ties officially with your spouse. 

Many people are familiar with divorce as a legal way to end a marriage. However, a legal separation is another option if you want to change the legal status of your relationship without getting a divorce.

It can be challenging deciding which legal path to changing your marital status works best for you. Divorce can have significant legal and financial ramifications, as can a legal separation. 

It is essential when making this decision to understand the difference between getting a divorce and getting a legal separation. You can make an informed decision on which option is best for you when you know the differences between these two legal processes. 

Whether you want a divorce or legal separation or are still trying to decide which is best for your circumstance, you should always seek professional legal advice. Consider working with a trusted law firm, such as wh Law, a Little Rock divorce lawyer provider with years of experience to back their legal opinions. 

Read on to learn more about the legal process of ending or altering your marriage status. 

Difference between divorce and legal separation

Although they sound somewhat similar, a divorce and a legal separation can have significantly different legal outcomes. When you get a divorce, your marriage screeches to a halt and terminates immediately. On the other hand, you are still legally married if you opt for a legal separation. 


A divorce is a total dissolution of your marriage. On forms, you would have to identify as legally single. Getting a divorce can be a good option if you want to be legally disentangled from your current spouse and may be interested in getting married to someone else in the future. 

A critical consequence of getting a divorce is forfeiting your legal rights as a spouse. If you are no longer legally married to someone, this can impact your legal rights to your spouse’s insurance, inheritance, or property. Legally ending your marriage also means that you surrender your decision-making rights, should your former spouse become incapacitated. 

Legal separation

A legal separation means that you will still be legally married to your spouse, but the government recognizes you as legally separated. This process can be an opportunity to legally negotiate custody agreements, finances, and property ownership without ending the marriage.

If you no longer want to live a shared life with your spouse but do not wish to legally end the marriage, a legal separation can be an excellent option if your state allows it. With a legal separation, you will still have access to shared benefits such as health insurance, as well as decision-making rights if your spouse is ever reaches a formidable point of mental or physical debilitation. 

A legal separation can either be a step toward getting a divorce or a permanent legal status for your marriage. Some states require a separation period before a divorce. 

Final thoughts

Changing the legal status of your marriage is a deeply personal and serious decision. When deciding whether legal separation is the best choice for you, use this article as your guide through the uncharted waters of splitting up. 


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