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Is legal separation the same as divorce?

On Behalf of | Jul 31, 2023 | Family Law

In addition to divorce, Arizona offers legal separation for couples. It is an entirely separate legal mechanism and differs from divorce, even though it is just as complicated, if not more, than going through a divorce. It can also be just as expensive.

What is a legal separation?

A legal separation is not a divorce. Couples can file for a legal separation whether they have children or do not have children. The marriage remains intact, but the court issues a decree of legal separation. It is like divorce in that legal separation addresses all the same issues; child support, custody, parenting time, property disposition, etc.

Both spouses must agree to a legal separation, unlike in the case of a divorce. If one spouse wants a divorce instead of a legal separation, the court will convert the case to a divorce case.

Why would someone want to file for legal separation instead of divorce?

While it is not as common as filing for divorce, couples who agree to file for a legal separation usually have a reason for doing this. Examples of why a couple would choose to file for a legal separation instead of filing for divorce (at all or right away):

  • The couple may want to take time apart, like divorce, without getting divorced, to see how things work out between them in the process. They may have hope of reconciliation and choose to wait and see if they can resolve their issues.
  • The parties may have a religious belief preventing them from filing for divorce. They may have deeply held convictions that do not allow them to consider divorce, such as beliefs in the traditional Roman Catholic church.
  • The need of one spouse to remain on the other spouse’s medical insurance policy.

There are several reasons why the mechanism of legal separation still exists in Arizona. It is available for couples who agree to file for this status. However, they must both agree.

Divorce and separation are complex and challenging topics and situations to go through. Legal separation is one option that Arizona offers to couples who no longer want to be together but do not want to dissolve their marriage legally.