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Legal Separation vs. Divorce: What’s the Difference?

There are a couple of different legal ways that you can separate yourself from your spouse. As we all know, a divorce or dissolution of marriage is one option. When a divorce takes place, arrangements are made with regard to the separation of property, child custody, child support, etc. At the end of the process, each person is once again single and unattached in the eyes of the law.

A legal separation is another possibility for couples who want to go their separate ways without severing the marriage knot. In some cases, the individuals involved are not entirely sure that they will never get back together again. However, in other instances, they feel as though there will never be a reconciliation. Why would a couple choose a legal separation over divorce if there was no hope of getting back together in the future? There are a few different scenarios that could make legal separation a better choice.

In some cases, a couple can realize significant tax benefits if they stay legally married, and this is one reason why a legal separation can be preferable. Health insurance is a basic necessity of life, and the couple may choose legal separation over divorce to preserve benefits if one party is covered under the other’s policy. Military spouses may be able to receive benefits if they remain legally married, so legal separation can be a good choice for some military couples.

There can also be Social Security implications that can tilt the scales in favor of a legal separation. If you have been married for least 10 years, and your own Social Security record would provide you with less than half of what your spouse is receiving, your benefit would be half of what your spouse is entitled to. Couples will sometimes choose legal separation so that they can reach this ten-year threshold.

Take the Next Step

We have provided a bit of basic information in this brief blog post. If you are a local resident who would like to explore this subject in more detail, we would be more than glad to assist you. We offer informative initial consultations at our Tacoma, Washington family law office, and you can set up an appointment right now if you give us a call at 253-272-9459.


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