There are many reasons why couples may choose a legal separation instead of a divorce. Some couples are unsure if they want to continue their relationship, so they use the separation as a trial period to see what life would be like as a single person. A legal separation allows them to live separately, separate finances, and still leave the option to reconcile.
Other couples may choose a legal separation for religious reasons. Many religions do not permit or approve of divorce. By legally separating instead, couples can remain religiously observant without continuing an unhappy relationship.
Other reasons for choosing a legal separation over a divorce may be financial, to maintain stability for minor children, or to continue to have health insurance benefits.
There are some states that do not legally recognize separation as binding. In this case, it is recommended to seek out further help as divorce may not be the only option.
All of the states in the United States allow for legal separation except for six. In Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas, you cannot file for a legal separation. If you no longer want to continue your relationship, you must file for divorce.
In addition, Indiana has a limit on the length of a legal separation. A legal separation in the state is only valid for twelve months; after this time period, the couple must either reconcile or divorce.
In some states, it is required that couples have a separation before filing for a no fault divorce. This means that if couples want to divorce without either party taking the blame, they will need to separate for a period of time before filing for divorce.
Montana has the shortest separation requirement of 180 days. Louisiana also has a 180-day separation requirement unless the couple has minor children. Those with minor children must separate for a year.
Four states have a separation requirement of six months. In Colorado, Delaware, Vermont, and Virginia, couples must separate for six months before divorcing. Like Louisiana, Virginia also increases this period to a year for couples with minor children.
Some states also have other ways to file for no fault divorce. These states include a provision for legally separating for a period of time to qualify for a no fault divorce. New York (1 year), Connecticut (18 months), Rhode Island (3 years), and Idaho (5 years) offer this option to couples looking to divorce.
Laws surrounding legal separation and divorce can be confusing, so it is valuable to speak to a lawyer in your state to determine the best option for you.
Legal Separation Allowed
Required to Divide
|Connecticut||Yes||18 mos (poss)|
|Idaho||Yes||5 years (poss)|
|Indiana||Yes - 12 Mo|
|New Jersey||Yes||18 mos|
|New York||Yes||1 yr (poss)|
|North Carolina||Yes||1 yr|
|Rhode Island||Yes||3 yrs (poss)|
|West Virginia||Yes||1 yr|