Written by Canterbury Law Group

Legal Separation Advantages And Disadvantages

Legal Separation Advantages And Disadvantages

When your marriage ends it is a highly personal experience. Many of your friends may offer advice on how they did it, but it may not be the ideal way for those involved in your decision. This is something the majority of states understand – therefore there are many methods from an annulment to total divorce with legal separation as an option as well. When you opt for legal separation, there both upsides and downsides. Read on to learn more.

Legal Separation Advantages

While there are similarities between a legal separation and a divorce, here are some of the advantages to legal separation.

  • When a couple decide to opt for a divorce, the agreement for separation can be the basis of the divorce separation.
  • There may be some tax benefits to filing taxes jointly.
  • Assets and debts can be considered as separate entities and property when there is a legal separation.
  • You may still be eligible for social security benefits if you remain married and meet the ten-year requirement for such.
  • Certain benefits from the military may be retained.
  • Health insurance can continue using the benefits of the other spouse. However, you will need to check the conditions of the policy to ascertain what will happen when a couple separates legally.
  • Religious reasons may dictate it is best for you both to remain married.
  • It allows a couple some time and space to live apart and see if it benefits their relationship or leads down the road to divorce. In addition, an agreement of separation addresses how various matters will be dealt with when the couple are not together.

A legal separation can also provide the groundwork for an actual divorce when the judge comes to decide on the divorce agreement.  Either party, at any time, can “convert” the legal separation case into a case seeking marital dissolution.

Legal Separation Disadvantages

The disadvantages of legal separation can be a little more complicated to explain as one piece of the puzzle may have an impact on another.

Legal Separations And Divorce Complexity

Ironically, a legal separation can take as much time and be as intense as a divorce process as they involve things like allocating assets and debts, and property division. Those who divorce following a separation will then have to do the whole process over again and those who decide to continue their full married relationship often feel as if they have gone through a divorce process to get their relationship back! Furthermore, if certain aspects of the separation cannot be agreed, the only option is to go through the courts, causing greater stress and expense. However, you can choose to do an informal separation, or if it is felt there is very little to no chance of the couple reuniting, proceeding with the divorce process.

The Stresses Of Legal Separations And Divorce

Many couples end up failing in their efforts when they think a legal separation may be a good method to ascertain whether they should remain married. However, the stress it causes often leads to the ruination of the relationship. As we said above, a legal separation is often as traumatic an experience as going through a divorce and the problems it causes can terminate what was already a precarious relationship. It is best to use an informal separation if you want to these those waters. You will have the equal space without the additional stress and problems arising from a legal separation.

Legal Separation May Not Be Needed

Couples often think a legal separation is an essential step in working out where their marriage is going. But more often than not, it is simply not the case. Couples achieve almost all of the same goals by utilizing an informal separation without the additional stresses as well as the commitment and expense of a legal separation. At first glance it may seem as if a legal separation is the only way your marriage may survive but a better barometer of how salvageable your marriage is, is often better judged when an informal separation is in place.

State by State

Legal separation is not something every state recognizes and may go by a different name. For example, in Maryland it is known as “Limited Divorce” while in New Jersey it known somewhat quaintly as “Divorce without bed and board.” However, the legal separation rules are virtually the dame no matter what state you reside in.

Still Married?

In states where adultery is still on the books, for example, in Tennessee and Maryland having a sexual relationship with a new partner falls under their adultery laws. This gives your spouse the chance to file divorce on grounds of adultery and may impact alimony or the division of property. This may even have an impact on your ability to date once again or set up house with someone else. Decrees of Legal Separation means you are still married, and, in those states, they may see a sexual relationship with anyone else as adultery, regardless of the status of your relationship between your spouse and yourself.


A legal separation may be the way to go if you want to remain married but live separate lives. But some states do not permit your separation decree to become your divorce decree, meaning you will have to go through the entire process once more and of course the expense is at the very least doubled!

Another Option

If you live in a state where judicial separation is not recognized, there are still ways to avoid typical problems if you want to separate legally. Florida is an example; you can obtain a separation agreement and it becomes a contract that is binding once you both sign it. It usually cannot be enforced in a family court but if the terms of the contract are broken, you can go to civil court. Inheritance rights are waived in an agreement like this and later you may be able to include this document into a final decree in your divorce case. This however depends on the state you live in.


“Legal Separation – What Are the Benefits?” WomansDivorce.com, www.womansdivorce.com/legal-separation.html.

“Advantages and Disadvantages of Legal Separation – Albuquerque Divorce Attorney.” Albuquerque Personal Injury Attorneys, www.collinsattorneys.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-legal-separation.html.

Bird, Beverly. “The Disadvantages of a Legal Separation.” LegalZoom Legal Info, 21 Nov. 2017, info.legalzoom.com/disadvantages-legal-separation-27323.html.

DavisMr, Greg. “Legal Separation vs Divorce in Arizona: Which Is Better?” Best Legal Choices, 7 Nov. 2019, bestlegalchoices.com/legal-separation-vs-divorce-arizona/.

Need a Legal Separation Lawyer in Scottsdale or Phoenix?

As family court lawyers, we have built a network of Arizona mediators, attorneys, tax specialists, estate planners, financial planners, child specialists, real property appraisers, adult and child therapists and parenting coordinators who are here for you if you ever need them. Our lawyersdivorce mediators and collaborative divorce attorneys in Scottsdale are here to make your divorce less stressful and keep you in control and the costs contained. Call today for an initial consultation at 480-744-7711 or [email protected]. Our family lawyers can also help with divorce litigation, child custodylegal guardianshippaternityprenuptial agreements, and more.

*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.

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