Legal Separation v. Divorce: Which Is Better?

When a marriage is on the rocks, couples usually view it as a sign that divorce is on the horizon. In some instances, however, what might be needed is a time-out. A legal separation may help mend outstanding issues in a marriage, or it may help to lead a couple to divorce. Look at what happens when a couple lives apart and how it works.

Why Legally Separate?

If a couple lives in a state that allows it, a legal separation may help an uncertain couple decide if they want to end their marriage. During this time apart, the couple maintains the legal standing of being married and all the benefits, including healthcare, legal custody of children and the passage of property should one spouse die.

What if Spouses Don’t Intend To Stay Married?

In some states, a legal separation is required before a divorce proceeding can start. These state laws often set out the length of time a couple must be living apart. In a state such as this, all property acquired, or money made while the couple lives apart is not part of the marital pot. However, in other states where separation is a choice, things are handled differently. If two people do not intend to stay married but don’t want to go through the hassle of divorce, anything they receive, make or acquire while separate may be designated as marital property if they choose to divorce in the future. Absent a legal separation agreement, the other spouse will also inherit everything upon the other’s death, even if living apart.

What Is a Legal Separation Agreement?

A legal separation agreement is a document that should be considered when a couple decides to take a break. Whether the break is temporary or permanent, this agreement sets out the way they are handling their finances, property, debts and children. While they each still maintain some of the fundamental marital rights, such as healthcare, they lose others. For example, a separation agreement may state that all money and property obtained during the time living apart is sole and separate. If one spouse wins the lottery, the other may not be entitled to draw from it. The exception to this is inheritance upon death.

A divorce is a permanent way to end the relationship, and in some cases, winds up being the way a separated couple goes. However, once a divorce is done, it cannot be reversed (except through remarriage). When a couple isn’t sure if divorce is the right choice in a troubled relationship, a divorce lawyer, such as from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC, can help draft a legal separation agreement.

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We serve clients throughout Virginia — from Charlottesville and Central Virginia to metropolitan Richmond; Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley to Roanoke; and the cities of Hampton Roads to the Northern Virginia cities of  Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington.

To speak with one of our attorneys, please call us at (434) 817-3100.

Our Virginia personal injury lawyers at MartinWren, P.C. also have a statewide practice and offer free consultations at a time and location that is convenient for you.  We will gladly meet with you at your home or at the hospital, even on nights and weekends.


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