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Why Choose a Legal Separation Over Divorce?

This week, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman announced that they’ve separated after 30 years of marriage. While for most couples separation is just a step on the way to divorce, for others it’s a long-term solution.

In a separation, the spouses remain married, but usually live apart. You can formalize a separation by obtaining a decree of separate maintenance and court orders for child custody, visitation, or property division if applicable. But why choose a legal separation over divorce?


Divorce is expensive, especially if it’s contested. Attorney’s fees and court costs can add up.

A recent study by researchers at Ohio State University showed that 15 percent of people who legally separated remained separated but married three years later. The long-term separations correlated with less education, lower income, and a larger number of children, according to the researchers.


After a divorce, you probably won’t be able to stay on your former spouse’s health insurance plan. Check the fine print of your policy to be sure.

Social security benefits, on the other hand, could live on. If the marriage lasted 10 years or longer, a divorced spouse may be able to claim better benefits. For this reason, many separated couples wait until the 10-year mark to divorce.

There are certain tax benefits to being married. In many states, separated couples can still file joint tax returns, potentially saving themselves a lot of money. However, in Georgia, a decree of separate maintenance is issued in cases of legal separation, barring you from filing joint tax returns.


In many religions, divorce is frowned upon. A legal separation allows spouses to skirt the divorce prohibition and get away from each other.

Of course if you want to get re-married, you’ll have to divorce. If you have any questions about whether a legal separation is right for you, you may want to consult with an attorney. Good luck.

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