What’s the Difference between Legal Separation and Divorce

Though some states have a marital status referred to as legal separation, that is not the case in Pennsylvania. Still, many married couples choose to live separate and apart from one another, while still officially being married. While divorce is a legal act that puts an end to the marriage contract, a couple that separates is still married in the eyes of the state.

There are many reasons why separation may be the right option for you. You may just need time away from each other after facing significant challenges within the marriage, or your separation may be the first natural step in the process of pursuing a divorce. Some people find that their marriage is not working as well as they’d hope but their religion forbids or frowns upon divorce. Whatever your personal circumstances, it is a good idea to craft a separation agreement to preserve your rights and confirm the terms of your obligations to each other.

A legal separation will address many of the same issues as are mediated during the divorce process, and may in fact be used as a roadmap for that eventual agreement. An experienced family law attorney will ensure that your legal separation agreement includes the following:

  • Distribution of property

Your legal separation will be unique to you. Some couples continue to share the same living space and others will seek separate homes. If you choose to physically separate, you will need to address who takes various items and assets with them. This can include furniture, jewelry, electronics, and other items that have been purchased within the marriage.

  • Child Support and spousal support

You will need to address finances, including responsibility for different bills and obligations that you had within the marriage. Rent or mortgage payments, payment of any other loans, and responsibility for health benefits should also be included. You’ll also need to negotiate the payment of any spousal support if appropriate, and importantly, support of any children within the marriage. The state of Pennsylvania provides helpful guidelines for determining each partner’s obligations based on their income and where the children are living.

  • Child Custody and Visitation

If the marriage includes children, arrangements need to be made to allow both parents time with their children. Negotiating a visitation and custody schedule that is in the child or children’s best interest is important.

If you are considering separation or divorce, you need guidance from an experienced attorney. Contact us today to set up a time for us to discuss your situation and learn about the options available to you.