Legally Separated vs. Divorced: Which Is Right For You?

by Laura Gillis Law Office • August 22, 2023

Deciding to end a marriage isn't an easy decision. Married couples often grapple with the question: should we opt for legal separation or pursue a divorce? Both paths, especially legal separation, come with their complexities and implications. Understanding the differences between legal separation and divorce can guide people to a decision that aligns best with their circumstances.

Wedding Rings On A Judge's Gavel Base

Understanding The Basics

At its core, a legal separation allows married couples to live apart, with the courts formalizing the terms of the separation through an agreement of legal separation. This agreement covers areas like child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. It offers spouses a chance to be apart without permanently ending the marriage, which can be a good option for those who have religious beliefs against divorce or who are seeking some specific social security benefits.

On the other hand, a divorce legally ends the marriage, making both parties free to remarry others. Here, courts similarly address matters of custody, division of property, and support, but with a more permanent lens.

The Pros And Cons

In certain cases, opting for a legal separation can offer people more flexibility in their decision-making process. The legal separation agreement, a legally binding document, allows both to define their terms, such as financial responsibilities and living arrangements. This offers an opportunity to test the waters without the finality of a divorce. Moreover, should circumstances change, or the couple chooses to reconcile, this agreement can be adjusted or nullified without having to overturn a court order. For many, this flexibility and the chance to dictate terms offer an appealing option when considering the various paths to take in the face of marital challenges.

Legal Separation:

Trial Separation: For those uncertain about a permanent split, legal separations serve as a trial separation. This amount of time gives spouses the space to reconsider the future of the relationship.

Religious Reasons: Many choose legal separation over divorce due to their religion that prohibits or discourages divorce.

Tax Benefits: Some couples maintain their married status for specific benefits from taxes, even during a legal separation.

Social Security: If the marriage lasted a particular length, spouses might maintain a separation status to claim certain benefits from social security.


Clean Break: Offers those seeking a divorce a chance for a new beginning, freeing them from their ties and responsibilities to each other.

Remarriage: Divorced individuals can legally remarry.

Property Ownership: Ensures clarity in the division of property and protects individual property rights going forward.

When To Seek Legal Advice

With cases involving property, children, and varying state laws, it's always a good idea to consult with a divorce attorney or expert attorneys in family law. At the Law Offices of Laura Gillis, we prioritize giving you clear, ethical legal consultation tailored to your unique situation, whether you're considering an informal separation, formal separation, or diving into divorce proceedings. Our team understands the nuances of legal rights, ensuring you're informed and protected.

In the realm of legal separation, the regulations and intricacies can vary considerably between states. For couples in Phoenix, Arizona, understanding the specific parameters of Arizona's legal framework is pivotal. While some states might offer certain provisions in their separation agreement clauses, Arizona may have distinctive options or requirements. Each case carries its own complexities, influenced by factors ranging from the duration of the marriage to shared assets and liabilities. At the Law Offices of Laura Gillis, we're equipped with the expertise and knowledge to guide you through Arizona's unique landscape, ensuring that you're not only informed but also positioned to make decisions best suited to your circumstances.

Ethical Custody Practices: The Heart Of Separation And Divorce

Whether it's through a legal separation or a fault divorce, the well-being of the family, especially children, should always be at the forefront. Ethical custody practices ensure that child support, child custody, and visitation rights are set with the child's best interests in mind. Consulting with skilled attorneys ensures these practices are upheld.

The journey of legal separation is not just about two individuals parting ways; it's also about ensuring that shared responsibilities, especially concerning marital property and custody of children, are addressed with utmost fairness and consideration. While states have their specific guidelines on these matters, in Phoenix, the emphasis is on crafting a separation agreement that stands the test of time. This agreement serves as a foundation, bridging the gap between the initial decision of legal separation and a possible permanent separation in the future. It aims to uphold the best interests of everyone involved. At the Law Offices of Laura Gillis, our commitment is to guide you through this meticulous process, ensuring that every agreement crafted is thorough, fair, and in line with Arizona's unique legal framework.

Making The Right Choice

For some, legal separation provides an interim solution to marital problems, offering a waiting period to reflect without the finality of divorce. Some might see it as an essential step due to their religion or the benefits tied to marriage. Conversely, some parties might wish for a clear break and choose divorce to embark on a new phase in their lives.

Whatever your reasons, the most important thing is to make a decision that feels right for your situation. If you're navigating this challenging path, remember that help is available. Seeking advice from firms like the Law Offices of Laura Gillis ensures you make informed choices that prioritize the welfare of all involved.

Navigating the path between trial separation and permanent separation is a deeply personal journey. While many view legal separation as a temporary step, some may see it as a transitional phase before finalizing a divorce. The separation agreement becomes paramount in these situations, ensuring that issues such as marital property distribution are addressed comprehensively. In some states, there's a required separation period before a divorce can be finalized, making it crucial for the separated spouse to understand the implications of each stage. Opting for a legal separation might provide the necessary time and space to contemplate the future, giving both parties a clear perspective on whether they are seeking a trial pause or are ready for a more permanent shift in their marital status.

Whether you're deciding between divorce or separation, you'll need an excellent divorce attorney.

Contact The Law Offices of Laura Gillis

Navigating the waters of separation or divorce? Don't go it alone. The choices you make now will shape your future and that of your loved ones. Let the experienced team at the Law Offices of Laura Gillis guide you with clarity and compassion every step of the way. Secure the best possible outcome for your unique situation. Reach out to us today at 602-277-4736 for a consultation, and let us advocate for your future.