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How Does Divorce Work if We Are Already Separated?

Many couples test out a trial separation before divorcing. Under Minnesota law, however, a legal separation is an alternative to divorce, not a step in the divorce process. Because legal separation does not end a marriage, the divorce process is the same for couples who are informally separated and couples who are legally separated.

When a couple lives apart and refers to themselves as separated, they can choose to get legally separated or make a decision to get divorced. They can file the divorce jointly if they agree on its terms, or one spouse can serve the other with a divorce petition if there is any disagreement. During the divorce process, the couple and the courts will determine how to divide the marital property, resolve issues of child custody, and determine whether to award child support and spousal maintenance.

During the legal separation process, a court will decide all of the issues that would normally be handled in a divorce. The main difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that a legally separated couple is technically still married. They cannot marry other people without divorcing. People choose this option for religious reasons, moral reasons or financial reasons; it is sometimes possible to stay on a spouse’s employer-provided health insurance plan after a legal separation. Another difference between separation and divorce is that a court will typically award only temporary spousal support during a separation, but may award permanent spousal support during a divorce.

Minnesota does not have a procedure for converting a separation into a divorce. If you and your spouse have chosen to get a legal separation and then later choose to divorce your spouse, you will need to go through the regular divorce process — because, in the eyes of the law, though legally separated, you are still married.

If you are considering a legal separation or you are ready to formally end a marriage after separation, call an experienced Minnesota divorce lawyer at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A. today.

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Client testimonials
  • "Tori had a thorough understanding of my situation and made excellent recommendations to resolve my concerns. She was persistent on communication and handled everything in a very timely manner. I would definitely hire her again in the future if needed." - M.K.

  • "With Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A., it is like having a family physician. They are all knowledgeable, thorough, comforting, and the only call I need to make for all my legal needs for many years to come. No matter what the matter, I totally trust their advice and commitment to me and my family." - J.N.

  • "Mary from APH Law helped me thru a difficult divorce. She and the entire staff was there for me every step of the way helping me on what to do next. They listened to what I wanted and helped me achieve what matter the most to me in the divorce settlement." - Dana C.

  • "I chose APH after my initial consultation with Mary. I felt my best interest would be represented. The entire process went excellent, the attorneys and staff communicated effectively and efficiently with me throughout the process as they needed to. Being new to the legal process and verbiage, they walked me and talked me through the next steps and the jargon, I felt completely comfortable and represented. I hope I never have to use legal services again but if I do I will call Mary at APH Law and know that I will be taken care of." - Jeff M.

  • "Divorce is a time of emotion and stress. Mary Pfeifer , My lawyer was professional and compassionate. She was very informative through the process. Her insight helped me in my decisions. She worked hard to obtain a settlement which was fair to both parties. Though, I hope I won't need her help again. It is reassuring to know a good person that is willing to help." - Rod S.

  • "I first came to Ms. Jacquelyn Lutz of Appelhof, Pfeifer and Hart in October of 2016. It was definitely the worst time in my life and she compassionately spoke with me about my options. Ms. Lutz thoroughly explained the laws, statutes, process and what to expect going forward. What was supposed to be one case, turned into three intricate cases that took a huge toll on me and my family. Ms. Lutz represented me in court on all three cases with a vast knowledge of the laws and how to proceed accordingly. During all three cases she kept me informed, calm, gave me resources to utilize, and (most important) gave me a realistic view of what may come next. Ms. Lutz knew each case required a great deal of knowledge and creative thinking on how to legally proceed forward with each case. My family and friends are forever grateful for the amazing representation by Ms. Lutz. I highly recommend Ms. Lutz for anyone needing or considering superb representation for any kind of family law. " - M.H.

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