Many people have questions about the difference between a divorce and a “legal separation.” A legal separation is a court order describing the conditions under which two married people may live separately. A legal separation follows the same steps as a divorce and can take the same amount of time. Spouses divide their property; decide the custody of their children and pay alimony and/or child support, just as if they are getting divorced. The only difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that the parties to a legal separation cannot remarry without going back to court for an additional order converting their legal separation to a divorce.
A legal separation can be converted to a divorce by filing an affidavit with the court no sooner than 12 months after the legal separation is granted. A legal separation is sometimes selected when conditions exist that make it preferable for parties to remain legally married, although they are no longer responsible for each other’s liabilities and have divided their assets. These conditions include health of one of the parties, as some insurance carriers will allow a spouse to remain on the other spouse’s health insurance as if they are still married.