There are times when clients want to know what the difference is between a legal separation and a divorce. Often times I am asked if a legal separation is necessary if the parties have decided to live separate and apart. The answer is no, you do not need a legal separation if you choose to live separate and apart, there are instances where the parties should have a legal separation but it is not necessary.
There are situations when the parties do want to live separate and apart and want a legal document to spell out their individual rights and obligations during the separation period and in that instance, they should obtain a legal separation There are situations when the parties do not want to get a divorce due to religious beliefs so they obtain a legal separation. There are situations when one of the spouses needs the medial benefits the other spouse has through the other’s employer and if they divorce, those benefits would terminate. However, if they obtain a legal separation it is possible to maintain the spousal benefit since even though you are legally separated, you remain the spouse.
There are situations when the parties are living separate and apart and one of the spouses needs support from the other. Absent an agreement and voluntary payment, the spouse who needs support would have to file something with the courts in an attempt to obtain a support order. If the party does not want a divorce but needs support, the option would be to file a legal separation.
There are situations when the parties are living separate and apart and have children that they need to co-parent. If they do not want to file for divorce they can file for a legal separation and obtain a Court order for custody, visitation and child support.
Legal Separation orders are enforceable by the court and both parties are bound by what they agree to or the court orders.