What Is The Difference Between Divorce & Separation?


Posted by heritagelawoffices on Mar 28, 2016 in Blog, Divorce Law, Family Law

Many people consider the terms divorce and separation interchangeable – this is not the case. At the most basic level, a divorce means you are no longer legally married. Separation indicates that you and your spouse are living separate lives but are still legally married under the court. Read on to learn about the differences between divorce and separation, and some of the circumstances that dictate why a couple may choose each option.


Divorce is the solution for many couples that experience a breakdown in their marriage. Couples that choose to file for divorce will no longer be legally married. Any spousal benefits are lost, and certain provisions outlining child custody, property ownership, spousal support, etc. must be outlined before a divorce is granted. In some circumstances, the court may grant a divorce on the promise that these issues will be dealt with at a later date.

Some of the reasons a couple may choose to divorce rather than separate:

  • One or both spouses may be looking to re-marry or has hopes of re-marrying in the future.
  • There is no clear benefit (medical insurance, pensions, etc.) to either spouse that would warrant staying legally married.


Separation differs from divorce in the fact that you and your spouse are still legally married, even though you are living separate lives. A couple may choose to be separated before they divorce, but it is not required. A separation gives couples a chance to spend some time away from the conflict of marriage, and gives them time to decide if a permanent separation or divorce is what they want. Once separation is chosen, couples will want to enter into a separation agreement that will settle all matters regarding custody, property, etc. It is important to note that separated spouses are not permitted to re-marry, as they are still legally married.

Some reasons a couple may choose separation instead of divorce:

  • A separation agreement is generally less expensive than a divorce because there is no need to go to court, the agreement can be handled completely through your lawyers.
  • The same issues that are dealt with in a divorce (child custody, spousal support, property divisions, etc.) can be dealt with through a separation agreement.
  • Medical benefits, pensions, etc. are retained because you are still legally married.
  • Some religious beliefs conflict with the idea of divorce, so a separation allows you to live separately while maintaining your marital status.

If at anytime during the separation, the decision to divorce is made, the separation agreement can easily be converted into a divorce settlement agreement. This brings with it some cost savings as the spouses won’t have to spend time going through the family court system.

Have More Questions?

If you are considering a separation or divorce, let the staff at Heritage Law help. We keep your best interests in mind, and will make sure that you have all the information and resources available to help you make the best decision for you and your family. Call us today more for more information.