Beyond Marital Status: Other Differences Between Legal Separation And Divorce

26 September 2019
 Categories: , Blog


If you are weighing legal separation and divorce, you should know that the two are markedly different. Understand the differences before making your decision because they will have far-reaching consequences for nearly all aspects of your life, including the finances. Below are some of the major areas in which legal separation and divorce differ.

Healthcare Benefits

This is one of the major differences between legal separation and divorce. Neither of you will be able to use the other's health benefits after your divorce. For example, you won't be able to use your spouse's employer-provided health insurance after your divorce.

In most cases, you only have a brief transition period (after your divorce) to get your own health coverage. However, you can use your spouse's health benefits forever as long as you are only separated but not divorced.

Debts and Liabilities

If you are legally separated, you are still responsible for each other's debts. This is because you are still married as far as the government (and creditors) is concerned. Thus, your debtors can come after your property if your spouse takes a loan and fails to repay it.

Decision Making

If you are divorced, then another person other than your former partner can make decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. Your ex-spouse cannot determine which treatments you can get and whether your health care providers should pull the plug and let you die if you are in a vegetative state. However, if you are merely separated, then your spouse can still make these decisions on your behalf.

Property Rights

With a legal separation, the marital properties you own still belong to both of you. In fact, either of you can inherit the other's property in case of death. If you divorce, however, you can only inherit your former spouse's properties if they included you as a beneficiary in their estate planning documents.


Legal separation is not recognized in some states. If legal separation is not recognized in your state, then the state will just recognize you as separated (not living together), but you don't get any special rights or benefits from the separation.


Lastly, reconciliation after legal separation is easier than reconciliation after a divorce. With a legal separation, you can easily get back together without many requirements, and your marriage will continue. With a divorce, however, you must get a marriage license; it is like a brand-new marriage.

For more information about the differences between legal separation and divorce, contact a divorce lawyer in your area.