Many potential clients ask about the difference between a legal separation and a divorce. It is important to consider the meaning of a “separation” and a “legal separation.” Most couples opt for mere separation, as opposed to a “legal” one.
“Separation” simply means living apart. You do not need to file court papers to separate. The law does not require you to live with your spouse. If you do separate, you will need to work out arrangements for the care of the children, financial support, and payment of bills.
“Legal Separation” is a major change in the status of your marriage. To get a legal separation you must serve and file a petition in Family Court in the county where you or your spouse lives. It is a separate process from divorce. In Minnesota, you don’t need to get a legal separation before you get divorced. Legal separation takes as long as a divorce, and costs just as much if not more. In many ways, a legal separation is the same as a divorce. Both include custody, parenting time, child support, and, if appropriate, spousal maintenance (alimony) orders. All the family assets and debts are permanently divided.
The major difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that if you have a legal separation, you are still married. The wife may not resume using her former name. If you decide you want to end your marriage after a legal separation is complete, you will need to go through the court process to get divorced. Some couples choose legal separation because of religious beliefs or moral values against divorce. In other cases, there may be insurance or other financial reasons for a legal separation.