When couples experience problems in their marriage, they may think that a divorce is their only option. However, people may also get a legal separation. 

Divorce and legal separation have many elements in common. According to FindLaw, couples have to divide their property whether they get legally separated or divorced. One parent may also pay child support or alimony. Additionally, couples with children have to decide who will have custody and how often the children will see the other parent. However, there are a few key differences that people need to understand. 

The permanence of the situation

According to Marriage.com, one important difference between a legal separation and divorce is that a divorce permanently ends the marriage. If couples get a legal separation, they are still legally married. The legal status of the marriage may be important if people cannot get a divorce for religious reasons. Some people may also hope that distance will help them work out their problems. In these situations, a legal separation can be a good option. However, a divorce may be better if both spouses want the marriage to end or if one spouse is trying to leave a controlling marriage. 

Access to benefits

After a divorce, spouses usually cannot access each other’s assets. If people received healthcare through their spouse’s policy, they will no longer have health insurance. If people get a legal separation, though, they can still access health benefits, social security benefits and even their spouse’s pension. This may be helpful if one spouse will be unable to access these resources alone after a divorce. 

Each couple’s situation is unique. People should make sure they understand all the important aspects of divorce and legal separation before they decide which option will be better for them.