What is the Difference Between Divorce and Separation?

Couples who realize that their quality of life would be much better if pursued separately from their spouse are faced with many decisions. Among those decisions are whether it’s better to completely end the marriage through divorce, or maintain the marriage and yet live separate lives through a separation.

Similarities between divorce and separation include child support, alimony, custody, visitation and property division. Ideally, in both separation and divorce situations, spouses reach voluntary agreements on how to provide support for both the spouse and the children. Here’s more detail about the similarities and difference between divorce and separation in the state of Georgia:

Divorce in Georgia

By definition, divorce means the marriage ceases to exist. Under Georgia law, there are no requirements for spouses to live in separate households before a no-fault divorce (a no-fault divorce is when neither party accuses the other of misconduct but there is no chance of reconciliation). In Georgia, one spouse can file a divorce petition and the divorce can be finalized in as little as 30 days in both parties are in full agreement, although many divorces take longer to sort out the details.

Separation in Georgia

A separation is when a married couple chooses to live separate lives but not formally end the marriage. Married couples in Georgia can separate by requesting a separate maintenance agreement order from the court. However, if one spouse wants to divorce, a divorce will occur. A separation can only occur if both spouses agree that a separation is best and that divorce is not an option at that time for whatever reason.

There are a variety of reasons for choosing separation over divorce. A couple may choose not to legally end their marriage due to:

  • Religious beliefs
  • Financial reasons, such as pension plan benefits
  • Healthcare reasons, including access to health insurance through a spouse
  • The couple is mutually not ready to end the marriage through divorce
  • Neither spouse desires to remarry

Although the separation is agreed upon by the parties, the terms of the separation do not necessarily have to be agreed upon. The court can still consider requests for child and spousal support just as it would during a divorce. Similar to divorce, the process is most efficient when both parties agree on issues such as alimony, child support, visitation and property division. In that case, the judge is likely to sign the agreement presented if it seems fair to both parties. When spouses do not agree on issues, the separation may go to trial, similar to divorce proceedings.

Ultimately, couples who are happy with the separation agreement and later opt for divorce can use the separation agreement as a template for the divorce.

For more information on separation, divorce and other family law issues, contact experienced family law attorney Elizabeth Pool O’Neal by calling (770) 775-3188 to schedule an appointment. Smith, Welch, Webb and White is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the state of Georgia. Our team of experts routinely handles a wide range of legal matters, and will provide outstanding service for you, your family or your business.

Any representations regarding the law in this Blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.



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