What are the Main Differences Between Separation and Divorce?

What are the Main Differences Between Separation and Divorce?

The process of dissolving a marriage can be a lengthy, complicated process. For some, it begins with a legal separation, while for others it starts immediately with a divorce. It is important to understand that the two terms are not interchangeable — there are some key distinctions between the two.

Below is a quick overview of legal separation and divorce and how they differ from one another.

Legal separation

Legal separation is a type of official, legal contract that allows both parties to live separately while still being technically married and maintaining all the rights and responsibilities of a marriage. It’s typically used as a trial period for both spouses to take some time away from each other and think about how they wish to proceed.

While the details of separation agreements vary depending on the circumstances, the basics usually include the following:

  • Spouses live separately, but are still married
  • A court order outlines each party’s rights, responsibilities, child arrangements, etc.
  • Spouses may keep joint property and bank accounts, along with various benefits
  • Each spouse is still considered next of kin and has rights to property or benefits upon the death of the other
  • Neither party can remarry


Divorce is the final step of bringing a marriage to an end, regardless of whether there was a period of legal separation preceding it. The following are some of the key components:

  • The marriage is officially ended
  • A court order outlines child support, alimony, child custody and other arrangements
  • All joint assets and debts are divided, and neither spouse has the right to property acquired by the other after the divorce
  • Spouses are no longer considered next of kin and have no right to make medical or financial decisions on behalf of the other
  • Spouses can remarry once the divorce is final

For more information on the differences between divorce and legal separation, consult an experienced Long Island separation lawyer with Bryan L. Salamone & Associates.

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