Filing for divorce requires asking the courts for a final dissolution of the marriage, while a legal separation does not put an end to the marriage, according to Cathy Meyer for About.com. A legal separation allows couples to remain married while living separately.
The issues dealt with when filing a legal separation are typically the same matters disputed or agreed upon during a divorce proceeding, explains the Ohio State Bar Association. A request for a court-ordered legal separation or a divorce may both include designation of child or spousal support; division of property; allocation of assets and debts; residential parents and legal custodian appointments; and parenting rights.
A legal separation may ultimately be used as the basis of a divorce, notes the Ohio State Bar Association. The rights of each spouse stipulated in a legal separation and divorce are binding and enforceable through the courts. However, the agreement ordered with a legal separation can be dissolved if both spouses decide to remain married and not pursue dissolution of the marriage. Many couples opt to file paperwork for a legal separation to protect their rights and assets in case a resolution of the marriage is not reached, according to Jeff Landers for Forbes.