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What is the difference between separation and divorce?

On Behalf of | May 29, 2023 | Divorce |

Marriage is a milestone relationship in anyone’s life, with tremendous emotional and lifestyle implications. But it’s also a legal arrangement, with significant ramifications according to both federal and New Jersey law. From taxes to child custody rights to the status of your financial assets, married status is incredibly important.

As such, when you consider separating or getting a divorce, it’s crucial to consider the legal and financial impact this decision will have. And that’s where the difference between separation and divorce comes into play.

What is a separation?

Most people are fairly well acquainted with divorce, but separation tends to be a little less well-understood. And in fact, there are two types of separation.

The first type of separation involves no legal change of status at all. In it, two married people stop living together or living their lives as a married couple. This type of separation can be risky, as in the eyes of the law you’re still married, which means joint debt can still accrue.

The second type of separation is a legal separation. With this type, a couple is no longer legally tied together in most respects. This type of separation bears a resemblance to divorce.

The difference between divorce and separation

However, there are a few key differences between a legal separation and a divorce. The first and most basic is that a separated person can’t remarry, while a divorced person may do so.

More fundamentally, a divorce is considered a finished process once it concludes. The bonds of matrimony are dissolved, and a former couple are legally unencumbered to one another, except by existing legal contracts or shared children.

In contrast, a legal separation is an ongoing arrangement and can be reversed by the courts. As such, it’s more of an unfixed or temporary state, although a couple can choose to maintain a separation forever.

Divorce and separation are similar in the sense of being a way of interrupting a marriage. But divorce is a permanent agreement that frees both parties to go their separate ways, while separation maintains a legal connection.

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