What differentiates a legal separation from divorce?

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

In New Jersey, you can either get a divorce or a legal separation depending on what you’re looking for. But how do you determine what suits your situation best? How exactly is legal separation different from a divorce, and how will you know which one serves your needs better?

In short, divorce is a procedure in which your marriage will legally be ended. You will need to determine spousal support payments, child support payments, and property division, among other things. If you decide to legally separate instead, you will still need to deal with plenty of those matters. The main difference, however, is that you will still be legally married to your spouse.

FindLaw takes a look at both legal separation and divorce, going through the positive traits of both to showcase which might be a better fit for you. Legal separation may be better for you if any of the following apply:

  • You still want to work things out
  • You would like to retain benefits
  • You would like to share debt repayment plans
  • You are interested in maintaining property rights
  • You would still like to be considered next of kin for your spouse

When you divorce, you forfeit all of these things. You no longer share benefits, debts, property, or any say over one another’s lives. You will also need to remarry if you do reconcile with your partner.

Legal separation allows you to continue sharing potentially vital things like medical benefits, retirement funds, property, and so on. If you believe that you will want to work on the marriage, this is an easier option. You can also contact an attorney to learn more about both.

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