What Is Legal Separation in Marriage?

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Legal separation occurs before a married couple gets a divorce. According to Divorcenet.com, many states require the separating couple to live in separate residences for a given period of time. Courts view legally separated couples as legally married.


Legal separation allows couples to effectively end their marriage while retaining legal marital status. Couples may choose this option to retain insurance benefits or due to religious concerns.


A legal separation may include child support elements. The courts make custody decisions based on meeting the best interests of the child. If the separating parties fail to reach an amicable custody arrangement, the courts will decide who gets custody of the children.

Separation Agreement

Duhaime.org defines a separation agreement as a private agreement between the separating spouses. It establishes division of property and assets, spousal and child support issues. The courts decide the terms of the separation agreement if the spouses can't come to terms.


A divorce can't be granted simply by having a separation agreement in place. However, divorce becomes easier when a separation agreement exists. It can provide the basic framework that will ultimately constitute a divorce agreement.


A couple may live together after a legal separation has occurred. According to Duhaime.org, a legal separation agreement costs less than the costs of creating a divorce agreement