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The Difference Between Legal Separation, Divorce, And Dissolution

The Difference Between Legal Separation, Divorce, And Dissolution


Filing for divorce is asking the court to intervene and give an order on how the parties should divide their marital estate.

A divorce can include equitably dividing retirement, stocks, accounts, debts, obligations, monthly bills, time with children, decision making for children, amounts for child support, etc. Initiating a divorce can be expensive, in order to properly assess and/or structure a fair division of marital assets. Once there is an entry of divorce, it is final. This means that it is likely that any agreement regarding the marital estate will be non-modifiable.

What is a Legal Separation?

Legal separation involves getting permission from a family court to proceed with the beginning of a divorce. Legal separation can involve some status quo, for which both parties are to abide by while they sort through such issues out as bills, obligations, custody, debts, visitation, etc.

Legal Separation vs Divorce

The biggest difference between divorce and legal separation is that a couple is still legally married during separation. This means that spousal rights are still in place until the actual divorce takes place. For example, a husband or wife is still considered next of kin when it comes to medical decision making. In addition, a separation is reversible while a divorce is not.

Why Would You Get a Legal Separation Instead of a Divorce?

It allows parties to live separate and apart, while maintaining some semblance of normalcy during a divorce. A marriage is a unity of two to one, which is how family courts view couples.

For example, marital debts still would need to be maintained during a legal separation. Otherwise, one or both parties may experience some detriment. Legally separating allows the parties to figure out who’s going to pay what until a divorce occurs. Similarly, custody and visitation can be handled in the same manner.

Dissolution of Marriage

A marriage dissolution usually does not involve court action at the onset. A lot of jurisdictions may refer to this as a no-fault divorce, meaning that both parties are amicable, and a party is not trying to assign fault for the breakdown of the marriage. If parties are in agreement about dissolving a marriage, then they usually come to an agreement prior to the filing of a case that specifically settles any and all lingering issues from a marital estate.

Dissolution vs Divorce

Dissolution usually is more cost effective then filing for divorce. While most people would desire a dissolution for a marriage, a lot of times it is not possible, due to the complex issues regarding the marriage. Both parties will have their own interests in mind, and they inevitably will conflict with the other’s interests.

Frank Murphy

Edited By Frank Murphy

Chief Compliance Officer
Frank Murphy

Frank Murphy is the Chief Compliance Officer and an Executive Partner at Cordell & Cordell. His responsibilities include oversight of the Firm’s compliance with Legal and Ethical obligations as well as contributing to the day-to-day operations of the Firm as an Executive Partner.

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