What Is a Legal Separation?


Quick Answer

A legal separation occurs when a married couple lives separate lives, yet remains legally married, explains Cathy Meyer for About.com. For the duration of a legal separation, a court order remains in place that outlines the responsibilities and rights of each partner.

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A legal separation is similar to a divorce, yet there are a number of advantages for couples who choose to become legally separated rather than divorced, according to Meyer. For instance, a legal separation allows couples to spend some time apart to determine if divorce is right for them. It also keeps both spouses covered by insurance. Legal separation is accepted by many religions that do not accept divorce in their teachings.

There are other reasons legal separation may be preferred over divorce, notes Meyer. Military spouses, for instance, still retain their military benefits when legally separated. There might also be Social Security benefits for those who have been married for a minimum of 10 years. If a decision to divorce is made, the couple may use the terms of their legal separation as a divorce settlement. Legally separating from a spouse is a way to have freedom from that person, yet still retain the benefits often provided by marriage.

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