The Similarities and Differences Between Separation and Divorce

In conversation, people sometimes like to use the words “divorce” and “separation” interchangeably. However, under Minnesota state law and federal law, a couple that separates is considered different from those who get divorced. There are a few key similarities and differences when it comes to legal separation and divorce, and you should consider the options when deciding which is right for your situation.

Legal Separation

When you and your spouse legally separate, you are still married in the eyes of the law. However, legal separation does require a couple to enter into a legally binding agreement stating the details of the parting. You and your spouse may divide assets, live separately and determine child custody arrangements. Because of this, some couples choose separation as an alternative to divorce. There is no time limit on how long a couple may be separated.

Unlike in a divorce, couples that separate may continue taking advantage of certain benefits provided by a spouse. Couples that are separated but not divorced may, in some instances, qualify for increased Social Security benefits (depending on how long they have been married), continue health coverage from a spouse’s employer, file taxes jointly or keep certain military privileges. Besides maintaining benefits, some couples choose to separate if their religion does not allow for divorce, or they may use it as a trial period to see if living apart could work for their family on a long-term basis.

Dissolution of Marriage

Although a separation involves a legal agreement between both spouses, it cannot take the place of a legally recognized divorce. Therefore, if you and your partner decide to get divorced after you’ve been separated, you must still file a divorce petition and undergo all typical divorce proceedings. You will again need to discuss the division of assets, child custody and all issues related to your dissolution of marriage, and come to an agreement before the divorce is granted.

If you would like further guidance on divorce and separation in Minnesota, consult a skilled family law attorney at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A.

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