Many times people want to know the difference between a legal separation and a divorce. The process to get a legal separation is identical to that of a divorce. However, in a legal separation, the parties must agree to be legally separated. At the end of the process, you end up with a Decree of Legal Separation, not a Decree of Dissolution. You can still have child support, spousal support, division of assets and debts decided. You file taxes separately after you receive a Decree of Legal Separation. You can continue to own property as community property with right of survivorship or as joint tenants (because you are not divorced). If you decide you want to divorce at a later time, you must file a Petition for Dissolution and go through the same process as you did for your Decree of Legal Separation.
People choose to be legally separated rather than divorced for many reasons. Some may find divorce unacceptable because of religious beliefs. Others can remain on their spouse’s health insurance if they are legally separated rather than divorced. (Health insurance terminates upon entry of the Decree of Dissolution. You can still obtain health insurance through the ex-spouse’s employer so long as it is a company with more than 50 employees but it will likely cost more.) Some people may want to remain together but want to protect assets of one party from the creditors pursuing the other. Some may think it is easier emotionally to get legally separated first and divorce later. It should be noted that a legal separation can be dissolved by the parties and in that event, the parties are still married.
There are many reasons why a person may choose legal separation over a divorce. You should speak to an attorney to see whether a legal separation is right for you.