What is the difference between legal separation and divorce? People come in to me all the time and say “I’m legally separated,” but in reality they’re not. All they are is just separated or living apart after they’ve decided they don’t want to be married anymore. Legal separation is a very distinct term and it’s a legal process much like a divorce is. In a legal separation, you have all of the same discovery issues, document issues, paperwork issues that you do in a divorce.
The only thing is is that at the end you’re still married, and in a divorce you’re not married. You’re going to be dividing up what you owe and what you own. You’re going to be setting out a time sharing and custody arrangement for your children. You’re going to get a piece of paper that says you are legally separated. Now some people get this separation because they have a very specific reason such as religious reasons. Other people think that it’s important if they have a spouse who let’s say tends to spend a lot of money and they don’t want to acquire that spouses debt, so they get a legal separation.
Once the legal separation is finished, even if you’re still living together … Now remember, you’re still legally married so you can still legally live together. Once that separation has been signed, anything you buy, anything you owe, any credit card or other kind of debt that you acquire is your separate property.
Remember, a legal separation doesn’t just mean you’re not living apart, it’s a legal term and it requires a judge to sign off on a legal decree.