Many couples who are experiencing difficulties in their marriage consider separating from their spouse before taking that drastic next step of getting a divorce. They may try to take time apart to sort out their differences in hope that they can come together again to reconcile their marriage – especially if their marriage is more complex (e.g., they are in a high net worth marriage, children are involved, or they own a family business).

If you are thinking about separating from your spouse, you may be wondering what a separation is, how that differs from divorce, and what your options are. Below are some questions and answers to help you navigate this topic:

  • What is the difference between divorce and separation?
    The purpose of a divorce is to end a marriage, and when a divorce is final, you are no longer considered married to your spouse. With a separation, however, you are still considered legally married to your spouse, but your obligations to your spouse change. Some of the obligations that can change are similar to those that you typically see in a divorce and can include dividing assets, determining child custody, and resolving other issues such as alimony.
  • Are there benefits of a separation?
    Many couples consider separating from their spouse before making the final decision to end their marriage. Some marriages can benefit from this time apart by helping them resolve their issues.  Additionally, some couples choose separation vs. divorce to allow one spouse to receive benefits such as health insurance from their employer or social security benefits. Additionally, assets and liabilities incurred during a separation are the separate property of the spouse.
  • How can I separate from my spouse?
    It is important to know that each state has different rules regarding separation. For example, there is no legal separation in Pennsylvania; parties are either separated or not per the law of the Commonwealth. Separation in Pennsylvania is communicating the desire to separate and end the marriage and no longer holding one’s self as a married couple. Due to the differing rules in each state, we highly advise that you consult with your experienced attorney about your options.

RELATED: Read about how to prepare for a separation.

  • Can I live separate from my spouse without getting a separation or a divorce?
    Yes, it is possible to live separately from your spouse without being separated or getting a divorce. For example, if you live in Pennsylvania, a state which does not allow legal separation, you may still decide to live separately from your spouse for a period of time; however, please note that the same legal rules apply as when you are married. If your separation becomes long-term, you may want to create a separation agreement that covers important topics of property division, child support, alimony, etc. Before taking this step of separation, we suggest contacting a knowledgeable attorney to advise you on what your legal rights are and how to protect yourself.

If you are going through a separation, and have questions about what this means for you, your spouse, and/or your children, our experienced lawyers would be happy to talk with you to discuss your situation and assess your options. Contact us online or call our law firm at 412-261-4040.

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