The difference between separation and divorce is that unlike divorce, a legal separation does not put an end to the marriage. Legal separation is an alternative to divorce for people who can't continue to live together but do not want to end their marriage.
A couple is legally separated after petitioning the court to recognize their separation. Simply living apart does not constitute a legal separation.
All states except Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas recognize legal documentation of separation.
During a legal separation, you have a court order that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each spouse while they are living apart. Issues that can be addressed in a separation agreement are division of assets and debts, child custody and child support, visitation schedules and spousal support.
The same issues addressed during the divorce process are also addressed in a legal separation agreement.
A legal separation can protect your interests until the decision is made to file for divorce. The separation agreement also sets a precedence for the divorce that may follow.
If you divorce after a separation and your case goes to court, a judge is likely to assume that since you were satisfied with the legal separation agreement, the agreement should carry over to the divorce settlement agreement.
For that reason, it is important that you come to a separation agreement you can live with long term.
Although a legal separation and divorce have many things in common there are some advantages to obtaining a legal separation rather than a divorce. Those advantages include:
Laws regarding Civil Annulment differ from state to state. You can research your state's laws here to become more familiar with what the process would involve.
Basically, a Civil Annulment is the legal process a couple goes through to have their marriage declared null and void. A court, for the following reasons can declare a marriage null and void:
Some states do not allow annulment if the marriage produced children.
In these states, the marriage can only end through divorce. In states that do allow annulment, the status of the children remains the same as they would in the case of divorce.
Annulment does not mean that your children automatically become illegitimate under any circumstance.