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What it means to be legally separated

As many people know, a couple can be separated before they actually become divorced. But even though people may know that these are two different things, they may not be aware of what it actually means to be separated. So what is the difference between being separated and being divorced?

Being separated doesn’t mean that the two spouses are just living apart, though that is a big factor in the separation status. Legal separation is more formal than this. A court order will announce the legal separation, and during the couple’s separation, they have to live apart and the two have to abide by provisions and rules set forth by the court.

While separated, the court can also rule on a few important issues. For example, if the couple has children together, the court can decide how child custody will be handled. In addition, the court can rule on separation maintenance (which can include both spousal support and child support).

If the couple wants the separation only on a “trail” basis, then they can use the trail separation as a testing ground for whether they truly wanted to divorce or not. This can be a helpful temporary solution if couples are not sure if they want to take the divorce plunge quite yet. Eventually, if the timing is right and you feel it is the right decision, you can transition from a separation to a divorce.

No matter the case, you should always have legal counsel on your side when you are dealing with either separation or divorce.

Source: FindLaw, “Legal Separation vs. Divorce,” Accessed Oct. 28, 2015

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