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How is legal separation different from divorce?

The procedures for divorce and legal separation are essentially the same. The actions are filed in the same way and proceed the same way through the court’s calendar. And, the end result for both will be a final judgment which divides assets and debts, determines financial obligations between the spouses, and establishes placement and custody rights to the children. However, a legal separation is different from a divorce. If you are legally separated, you cannot marry anyone else until the legal separation is converted to a divorce, and then you must wait six months to marry after this is done. Also, if you are legally separated and you reconcile with your spouse, you can dismiss the legal separation and thus restore the marriage.

By comparison, if you divorce, you have 6 months to ask the court to vacate the judgment of divorce to restore the parties to their married status. Thereafter, you would have to remarry your spouse. Also, in some circumstances, one spouse is eligible for continuing health coverage from the other spouse’s employer, even after a legal separation is granted. The same is not true with a divorce. A legal separation can last forever. At some point, it may be dismissed/vacated, allowing the parties to be husband and wife again. Or, it may be converted to a judgment of divorce. This can be done at any time if both parties agree, or after one year has passed even if only one party wishes to convert it to a divorce.