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When a marriage deteriorates, the decision for divorce is viewed as a potential—and sometimes inevitable—option. However, legal separation is another choice that may be considered for a number of reasons. You should consider the differences between legal separation and divorce to determine which option is best for you and your family.

A final order of legal separation and a final order of divorce varies primarily in only one aspect: when a Decree of Legal Separation is entered, you and your spouse remain married; when a Divorce Decree is entered, you are divorced. Both final orders can define permanently you and your spouse’s rights and obligations with regard to your children, spousal support for either of you, and the division of assets and debts.

Resident Requirements For Filing

In Arizona, you must be a resident of the state for at least 90 days before you can file for a divorce. To file for a legal separation, you need only reside in Arizona as of the date you file for legal separation. An action for or Decree of legal separation may become a petition for or decree of divorce if either party requests, even over the objection of the other spouse.

Why Legal Separation Instead Of Divorce?

One of the most common reasons people choose to become legally separated rather than divorced is to maintain health insurance benefits for a non-employed or uninsurable spouse. Most health insurance policies will continue to insure a current spouse, but not a former spouse. Other common reasons for a legal separation is a couple’s religious beliefs or because it is a more comfortable way to psychologically ease into a divorce.

An important thing to note is that you are not legally separated just because you are physically living apart from your spouse. To make it legal, a court action must be filed and a decree entered to either be legally separated or divorced.

Contact us at Hallier Lawrence if you are considering a divorce or legal separation and need more information.