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Should you have a legal separation before divorce?

A legal separation is not the same thing as a divorce, but some people may prefer to have a legal separation prior to divorcing. While a legal separation is similar to divorce in that it allows you to legally divide your assets, set up spousal support and determine custody, it does not end your marriage.

Why would someone choose a legal separation rather than divorce?

There are many reasons why people may want to legally separate without ending their marriage. For some, religion plays a role. If the individual is religious and that religion doesn’t allow divorce, then a legal separation could be a solution to an unhappy marriage.

Another possible reason is the tax advantages. Married people generally fare better under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules than single people do.

Sometimes, people don’t actually want to end their marriage but do want to spend time apart to see if it is better for them to move forward with divorce or get back together. A legal separation is protective in this situation, allowing them to live separately, divide their assets and put together a plan if a divorce is necessary in the future. If not, the separation order can be dismissed, and they can continue their marriage as it was.

Whether or not you decide to get a legal separation before divorcing depends on your situation, if you believe a divorce is necessary and how a legal separation may benefit you more than getting a divorce would. It’s smart to look at the legal implications before you decide if a legal separation is the right choice.