Legal separation does not automatically lead to divorce. The couple may reconcile, in which case they need do nothing in order to remain married. If they do not reconcile, and wish to divorce after the statutory time period, they must file for divorce explicitly.
A period of legal separation may constitute grounds for divorce and some countries require some period of legal separation before a divorce can take effect (e.g. Spain, Ireland and Italy). Some states within the United States require separation before divorce. The required period of separation before filing for divorce varies.
In England and Wales a couple can formalize their separation by entering into a Deed of Separation. A Deed of Separation is a contract between the couple which can include the terms upon which they agree. The agreement can include, as an example, some or all of the following:- provision for divorce at some stage in the future; division of the financial assets; any arrangements for children. Although the matrimonial courts retain jurisdiction with regard to a divorce and financial agreements, if both parties have provided the other with full details of their financial circumstances and both parties have been independently legally advised, the courts are reluctant to go behind a properly drafted Deed of Separation.
In many jurisdictions that do not recognize the concept of spousal rape, a man cannot be prosecuted for the rape of his legally separated wife.