How Does Marriage Separation Work?

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Legal Separation

A legal marriage separation is fairly complicated. On the surface, it's similar to an actual divorce, but it isn't one. What a legal marriage separation does is divide the assets, debts and child custody among the parents so that the two parties can begin separate lives. This begins by drafting a marriage separation agreement, usually through an attorney, who will allocate the resources and debts as the couple wishes. In order for a marriage separation to be considered valid by law, however, both parties have to agree and must have relatively the same reason for desiring the separation. The drafting of the separation agreement sets out, more or less, the terms and conditions of the couple's separation.


A legal separation is, in many cases, a preamble to a divorce. However, that isn't always the case. Often a couple will set a duration for their separation, or refer to it as a trial separation. This gives them the time apart to live their own lives and to think about the marital situation and prospect of divorce. In many cases, couples will get a trial separation to see if they're truly happy without their husband or wife and to see if divorce is the right answer for them. However, if they do choose divorce, then the separation agreement will likely become the conditions for the divorce. In cases when a couple wants a divorce first, then they must draw up a separation agreement before the final divorce settlement.

While a couple can revoke a marriage separation if they decide they wish to remain married, a separation may lead to a divorce or go on indefinitely in theory, though the duration of a marriage separation depends entirely on the people who file for it.


Legal marriage separation is one of many options for those couples who feel that they may need to divorce. In addition to marriage counseling and couples therapy, a separation can often help two people move past their differences. Unfortunately, in some cases, there isn't anything that can be done. People grow and change over time, and sometimes the problem with the marriage is that the people involved are no longer willing to stay married.


About the Author

Neal Litherland is an author, blogger and occasional ghostwriter. His experience includes comics, role playing games and a variety of other projects as well. He holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Indiana University, and resides in Northwest Indiana.