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What are the benefits of a legal separation?

A legal separation is sometimes used as a stepping stone to divorce -- although, for many couples, it may be a good alternative instead.

Legal separations don't dissolve the actual marriage but they do create some distance. They generally allow couples to build separate lives and can even include provisions for spousal support, child support and visitation agreements.

What are the potential benefits of a legal separation?

You keep your current marital status

For some couples, this is an important consideration. Some religions and cultures frown on divorce, so a separation agreement allows a couple that isn't compatible to adhere to their community's standards while still finding a separate peace.

You can keep your health benefits

This may be a particular concern if one spouse relies on the other's insurance benefits for necessary medical care. Older couples, in particular, may choose to stay legally married but separated for just this reason.

You retain some important rights

A legal separation won't interfere with your inheritance rights if your spouse dies. In addition, if your spouse is hospitalized or otherwise unable to make decisions for himself or herself, you retain the right to direct his or her care. That relationship may also be important if your spouse dies. You would be entitled to decide the disposition of his or her body -- which may have an emotional impact on your family as a whole.

It is easier to reconcile

If you're hoping for a reconciliation with your spouse, despite everything, a separation agreement may give you both the time and space you need to come to terms with the past and eventually move forward. If you divorce, you have to get married again if you want to formally join your lives together.

It's important to understand one thing, however, about separation agreements: They are not the same as divorces -- even though they often feel similar. Since the marriage doesn't end, you and your spouse are not free to remarry. That's something that you need to remember in order to avoid additional complications down the road.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Separation," accessed May 02, 2018

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