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Legal separations and divorces have their own benefits

You're considering getting a divorce, but you've also looked into a legal separation. You're not sure which one you want, and it would be helpful if you had more information.

Fortunately, the differences between the two are fairly easy to understand. Legal separations are binding agreements that help you resolve issues between yourself and your spouse. Those issues might be things like deciding the custody of your children or who has to pay the debts you once shared.

Since a legal separation is a legally binding agreement, you can separate and not worry about debts being accrued in your name or having your spouse's actions affect you. You are free to live separately with your own income and home while mitigating a substantial amount of financial risk.

You can choose only to separate legally and never get divorced. If you choose this, you cannot get remarried without a divorce. If you do decide to get divorced, your legal separation can be used in court to move the divorce along faster.

A divorce ends your marriage, and that's the main difference. Many states require a legal separation before your divorce, so it's a good idea to have both a legal separation agreement and divorce decree. You may decide not to get a divorce if you find that it would affect your finances negatively. For example, if you've been married for 10 years and turn 62 without remarrying, you are entitled to your Social Security benefits or 50 percent of your ex's Social Security benefits, whichever is higher.

Your attorney can talk to you about your options and which might be better for you financially. Our website has more on legal separations and divorce.

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