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What is the difference between a divorce and a legal separation?

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2020 | Family Law

If you believe that your marriage is either over or failing fast, there are a couple of actions that you could take in Arkansas. 

You may either file for a divorce or you and your spouse could obtain a legal separation. 


According to FindLaw, you cannot undo a divorce. It is the official termination of your marriage and all marital rights. If you and your spouse should reconcile in the future, you will have to marry again. 

In a divorce, you and your partner attempt to divide your existing property fairly and equitably, as well as agree on future financial maintenance like alimony. A divorce also addresses issues regarding children, such as a sole or joint custody arrangement, child support and visitation schedules. Since a divorce completely dissolves your marriage, you and your former spouse have the freedom to marry someone else. 

Legal separation 

Compared to a divorce, a legal separation reaches similar agreements concerning property division, financial maintenance and custody. However, you and your partner are still legally married and so retain many of your fundamental marital rights. 

Often included are the rights to make end-of-life medical or financial decisions for your spouse, and ownership of jointly-held property or debt. You also continue to have access to benefits like health insurance and social security, and you can keep filing joint tax returns. Because you are still married, you may not marry anyone else until you file and finalize a divorce. 

If you do decide on a dissolution, having worked out the terms during the separation procedure could make the divorce process much more straightforward than it would have been otherwise. Plus, if your goal is to have a little space while you work out the differences with your spouse, a legal separation arrangement has the benefits of being enforceable by the court while still remaining easy to reverse upon reconciliation.