In some cases, a married couple experiencing relationship trouble may not be ready to pull the trigger on a complete divorce, but one or both spouses may feel that something needs to change and the strength of the court is necessary to help that change. While it is far less common than traditional divorce, couples can also petition the court for a legal separation.
Legal separation is very similar to divorce, but the couple still remains legally married. Apart from this distinction, divorce and legal separation are fairly similar. Under a legal separation, the court can rule on matters like dividing up martial assets and liabilities or child custody agreements and spousal or child support.
For many couples who choose to use legal separation, there is some hope that by "trying on" divorce, they might find that it is not actually the thing they want. In this case, a legal separation can end and the couple can reunite physically and legally to work through their struggles and continue to fight for the marriage. Still others find that legal separation shows them that they do in fact want to continue on to divorce.
If you are feeling stuck and unsure how to move forward in your marriage, a legal separation may be right for your relationship. Legal separations offer couples the opportunity to have some room to experience some aspects of the divorce process without fully ending their marriage, and many couples benefit from both the structure and flexibility of this arrangement. If you think you might benefit from a legal separation, an experienced attorney can help you take the next steps.
Source: Findlaw, "Legal Separation vs. Divorce," accessed Aug. 11, 2017