Burnsville, MN Family Law Attorney, Merlyn Meinerts, addresses the difference between legal separation and a divorce.
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The process of legal separation is virtually identical to a marital dissolution in that there’s a summons and a petition and the outcome is a decree of legal separation.
The legal standard for obtaining a divorce is that there’s an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage. But the legal standard for legal separation is simply that the parties are in need of having a legal separation.
To me, it’s a question of simply drawing some boundaries during some time when parties are separated, contemplating counseling, contemplating potential reconciliation. So those boundaries relate to things like custody and parenting time. Sometimes more importantly it relates to the monthly financial obligations of the parties. How is the family going to be supported, how is the mortgage going to get paid and those types of things while the legal separation is pending.
Oftentimes, people choose to pursue a legal separation because there’s some uncertainty about whether or not the marriage is irretrievably broken but at the same time there needs to be some structure to the relationship while the parties are separated. For example, because of the uncertainty of custody and parenting time schedules or perhaps of the uncertainty of what the parties respective financial obligations may be.
Other times, there are concerns about, for example, certain religious objections to the concept of divorce. People have a very strong perspective on the sacredness of the marriage vows and cannot pursue a divorce without feeling their violating that deeply held belief and for those reasons legal separation can be an alternative.