Divorce versus Separation

One question that we frequently receive is what is the difference between a Divorce and Separation? The main difference between the two is that a Divorce terminates the marriage, whereas a Separation does not. If a couple who is separated decides to reconcile, they will not need to remarry.

One of the most common reasons why someone will proceed with a Separation Agreement as opposed to a Divorce is to remain on a spouse’s health insurance policy. Most plans permit the other spouse to remain on a family health insurance policy even with a legal Separation. However, plan requirements may be different and it is important to review the specific plan requirements for the definition of a “terminating event.” With Divorce, the other spouse is not eligible to remain on the family health insurance plan. That spouse then must pay for COBRA (if available), which they will be eligible to receive for three years after the Divorce is granted, or obtain a separate health insurance plan. As most people recognize, the cost of health insurance can be astronomical. A legal Separation is a good vehicle to enable the other spouse to remain on the family health insurance plan.

There is a lot of misconception about the benefits of a legal Separation versus a Divorce. If health insurance is not an issue, and there is no possibility of a reconciliation, then Divorce is most likely the best option. If you proceed with a Separation, when you are ready to obtain a Divorce, you will have to complete a new set of documents to submit to the court to convert your Separation into a Divorce. Besides being time-consuming, it will also result in the need to hire an attorney to prepare these documents at some point in the future.