Precautions for a Marriage Separation

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When a marriage sours, it is common to experience a variety of emotions. While coping with anger, resentment, sadness and jealousy, each partner must weigh options with a clear mind. Before pursuing divorce, couples often choose to separate while sorting through emotions, property and custody arrangements. But first, it is important to know the specifics of legal separation.


Divorce is irreversible, but legal separation can be reversed. If a marriage falters but there is hope for reconciliation, separation gives a couple time to work on the relationship. But with legal separation, many decisions are final. Just as a judge rules on custody, property and assets during a divorce, these arrangements can be finalized during legal separation, too. Put in as much consideration during separation as you would during divorce.

Converting Separation to Divorce

A separation gives couples the option to contemplate the marriage during a much-needed break. While some couples reconcile, others decide divorce is the best option. The process for converting your legal separation to a divorce varies by state. Some states have a waiting period before you can convert the separation to a divorce. Others let you request a divorce at any time during the legal process.

Regardless of the waiting period, most states have a simplified divorce process if you've already filed for a legal separation. Expect to complete a request to turn your separation into a divorce. If you already worked out issues like finances and property division during the separation, those agreement terms can apply to the divorce unless you want them changed.


It’s no secret that divorce can be costly. Although many assume that divorce is more expensive than separation, this assumption is not always true. During a legal separation, couples pay attorney fees, court costs and mediation services when determining division of assets, alimony, child support and custody agreements. Some states allow separated couples to claim marriage tax benefits, but other states do not, thus reducing each spouse's refund.

Family Challenges

Many couples separate to allow children time to adjust. Families experience a roller coaster of emotions during divorce or separation. If children are involved, a separation may confuse them or give them hope that their parents will reconcile. When choosing separation, be open and honest about plans for the relationship. If divorce is inevitable, avoid prolonging the process or providing false hope to children and family members.