Legal separations: Similar to, but not quite, a divorce

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

When New Jersey couples realize their marriage is not working out, divorce is not their only option. A legal separation may be a good alternative for many couples. People may wonder about the differences between these concepts and how they affect a couple.

When people to choose to get a legal separation instead of a divorce, their marriage is still legal. says that people who are legally separated no longer live together. Sometimes this arrangement gives couples time apart so they can attempt to resolve their differences. In some situations, people may prefer a legal separation if they cannot divorce for cultural or religious reasons.

Couples who divorce often need to make decisions about child custody. According to FindLaw, people who get a legal separation also need to decide where their children will live and how often they will see each parent. Parents may also need to discuss who will pay child support and how much these payments should be. Sometimes one spouse may need to pay alimony, as he or she would in a divorce. Additionally, couples typically need to work with a court to divide their property.

One major difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that people usually keep the health care and social security benefits they had while married. Sometimes people may still be liable for any debt their spouse has. Additionally, while couples who divorce cannot make decisions for their ex-spouse, legally separated couples can still make financial and medical decisions if their spouse is not capable of making these choices. While people who get a divorce can legally remarry, couples with a legal separation are technically still married and cannot enter another marital relationship.  


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