Separation vs Divorce – The Pros and Cons of Each

Separation vs Divorce - The Pros and Cons of Each - Heidi Dinning

If you and your spouse are having serious issues, you may be contemplating either a divorce or a legal separation. But what is the difference between the two, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each? 


A legal separation is similar to a divorce because it follows the same process, except you check the box for a legal separation rather than a divorce on the paperwork. You are also still legally married to your spouse in these cases. In a legal separation, you must focus on coming to an agreement on some key issues, such as parenting, property division, and support.

There are pros and cons of seeking a separation rather than a divorce, of course, which you will find below. 

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Pros of Separation

By choosing a separation over divorce, you can take the time that is needed to negotiate aspects of a divorce such as child support, spousal support or division of property– typically, this is a calmer and more relaxed atmosphere than during actual divorce proceedings. 

There are financial benefits to a legal separation as well. For instance, you can file as separated not divorced for tax returns and can receive different healthcare and insurance benefits that you would not be able to receive if you are legally single– these may be due to your spouse’s employer. There are pension and Social Security benefits to consider, too. 

Further Reading – How to Start the Divorce Process

Cons of Separation

Your finances may not be divided, so you won’t have control if your spouse is an over-spender or withdrawls more than you do.

Inheritances can also be tricky territory in the case of a separation. If one of the spouses were to die, for instance, and leaves a possession or amount of money to someone who is not their spouse, there may be complications. This is particularly complicated if the object or monetary amount belonged to both of the spouses, rather than just to the deceased. 


If you seek a divorce, you and your spouse will no longer be married and your marital status will now be “divorced”. The divorce is a more permanent option than a legal separation and will have to have all aspects of parenting, property division and support payments settled.

Some of the pros and cons of seeking a divorce are explored below. 

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Pros of Divorce 

If you are certain that your relationship will be ending and there is no chance of reconciliation, it may be better to opt for a divorce. This will make it so that you and your spouse are no longer married in the eyes of the law. It will also allow you to remarry, for example, if you should so choose.

Going through with a divorce also allows you to go on with your life separate from your spouse, as you are– officially– no longer married. Separation only provides space in the physical sense, whereas a divorce will provide you with mental as well as physical space from your spouse. 

Cons of Divorce

Of course, if you are spending some time apart and still trying to work on your relationship, a divorce might not be your best bet. It is important to understand that divorce is final. 

However, if you do decide to divorce, you will not be able to lay claim to certain benefits if they came through your spouse’s employer. For instance, if you were on your spouse’s health insurance, it is now your responsibility to find a new health insurance plan for yourself.

As an unmarried person, you will also no longer qualify for certain tax breaks. Due to all of this, and due to a decrease in household income, a divorce may decrease your living standards, and you may have to operate on a different budget now.

Separation vs Divorce - The Pros and Cons of Each - Heidi Dinning (1)

In Conclusion

The decision to separate or move toward divorce will be personal. You may prefer to try and work things out, but cannot do so in the same home or as you were operating before. In this case, it may make sense to separate.

If you are at the end of your rope and feel that your relationship is over, however, divorce is likely going to be the better option to go with. Just remember that with a divorce, you may face some financial repercussions, while with a separation, your financial situation will stay the same or at least mostly intact. It’s important that you weigh all of your options before you make a final decision.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to get separated or divorced?

While the answer to this truly depends on your situation, getting separated first, rather than divorced, can help you to tackle different aspects of the divorce process– like figuring out a parenting / child custody arrangement or separation of property and support payments.

Why would you legally separate instead of divorce?

Typically, couples decide to legally separate rather than divorce if they are unsure whether or not they actually want to get divorced. If a couple wants to work on their relationship but require some time apart, this would be another reason for a legal separation so your situation has some legal rules and guidelines for you both to follow.

How is divorce different from separation?

With a separation, you are still legally married and cannot re-marry. A divorce is legally final, and afterwards, you are free to re-marry if you so choose. The big difference is the dissolution of a marriage that comes with a divorce. 

What should you not do during separation?

Some of the things that you should avoid doing during a separation are rushing to sign divorce papers or seeking a separation without the consent or knowledge of your partner. You should also avoid getting into a new relationship immediately after being granted your separation. 

Heidi Dinning Divorce Coaching – Get One on One Help

If you or someone you know is facing separation or divorce and don’t know where to begin, that’s where I can help. I act as emotional support, thinking partner and guide for you, so you can retain your dignity, find clarity and feel hopeful for the future. To learn more, visit our certified divorce coaching page. 

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