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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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  • "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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