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Going All The Way? Legal Separation versus Divorce

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Clients often ask about the difference between legal separation and divorce, and whether the former is a good alternative to the latter. In certain rare cases, it may be, but before considering that issue, it is important to distinguish between “separation” and “legal separation.”

“Separation” simply means living apart from one another. No court action is involved, but you likely need to figure out child care and financial issues. “Legal Separation” involves a significant change to marital status and requires filing a petition with the court. You do not need to be legally separated before you divorce and the process of legal separation can take just as long and cost just as much as – or even more than – getting divorced.

Legal separation is similar to divorce in many ways. In both cases, you will have a Judgment and Decree that addresses issues of custody, parenting time, child support, and (if appropriate) spousal maintenance. The court will also divide assets and debts. As in a divorce, either party can request a name change as part of the proceedings.

The primary difference between legal separation and divorce is that after a legal separation, you are still married. If you later decide you wish to end the marriage, you will need to involve the court again to get a divorce.

So, why would someone get a legal separation rather than a divorce? There are two primary reasons. First, some couples may have religious or moral objections to divorce. In such cases, legal separation provides an alternative that still allows financial and child-rearing issues to be addressed. Second, the parties may be motivated to remain married by insurance or other financial considerations.

For more information on legal separation or divorce, contact Kruse Family Law by phone at 612-238-9865 or via email at

Both Legal Separation and Divorce Resolve Many of the Same Issues

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