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If you and your spouse have been experiencing marital troubles for a long time, you might feel like your relationship is stuck in a rut. You may be having the same arguments over and over, but you may feel unsure if ending your marriage is really the best remedy.

If you know something in your marriage needs to change, you may be investigating what options are available to help change your situation. Divorce and dissolution of marriage are two ways you can try to end your marriage. However, if you are not sure if you want to permanently end your marriage, a legal separation might be a better option for you.

What does a legal separation do?

A legal separation allows you and your spouse to formally separate. The process for obtaining a legal separation is similar to the process for obtaining a divorce or a dissolution of marriage because many of the same issues must be resolved, such as child custody, child support, spousal support and division of property. A legal separation would also allow you and your spouse to live apart for the duration of the separation, although your marriage will not be ended by the separation.

What are the benefits of a legal separation?

Although the process for obtaining a legal separation is similar to the process for obtaining a divorce or a dissolution of marriage, a legal separation can be more beneficial to some couples. It can be difficult for spouses to get divorced, especially if it is against their beliefs to do so. Being legally separated allows spouses to live apart, while remaining married. Couples can use this as a time to test out the idea of ending the marriage without actually ending it.

Legal separation also leaves the possibility of reconciliation. In some cases, spouses just need to have some space from each other to work on their marriage, work on personal issues or take time to consider what they truly want.

A couple may also find financial benefits to a legal separation. Depending on a couple’s situation, spouses may want to remain married for the health insurance, retirement or tax benefits.

However, the value to having a legal separation instead of an informal separation is that a carefully crafted separation agreement can protect each spouse from the other spouse’s actions during the separation. The separation agreement can also act as a starting point if a couple decides later to end the marriage.

Ultimately, you and your spouse must decide what course of action to take. However, by understanding all of your options, you can make the decision that best fits your unique situation.