The Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce

Ending a marriage is a big decision, which is why it is in a couple’s best interest to understand all of their options before parting ways permanently. Aside from divorcing, a couple might choose to legally separate instead. Although both implemented under legal procedure, they are different types of marital arrangements.

Continue reading to learn the difference between legal separation and divorce, including Florida laws regarding both.

Marriage Lawyer Orlando, Florida 407-887-7058
Marriage Lawyer Orlando, Florida 407-887-7058


Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court. So when married couples divorce, they are legally terminating their marriage. After a divorce is finalized, each person is entirely disassociated with the other under law, including property, insurance, finances, and liability. Although most are familiar with the general facts of divorce, the laws surrounding it vary greatly among states.

Here in the state of Florida, there are three requirements to get a divorce. A spouse must show proof that the marriage took place. Then they must prove that they (or their spouse) were a Florida resident for at least six months prior to filing. And last, they must prove that the marriage is irreversibly and forever damaged. There are different types of divorce options as well, such as collaborative divorce and divorce mediation. See our blog, “The Difference Between Mediation and Collaborative Divorce” to learn more.

Legal Separation

Couples who want an alternative to divorce might opt for legal separation. Under the arrangement of legal separation, a couple remains married under law, but lives separately from one another. The details of legal separation vary from couple to couple, but all prohibit either spouse from remarrying or entering into a domestic partnership unless they terminate the marriage legally via divorce or annulment.

This progressive approach to splitting up is less severing than divorce, and ultimately, reversible. Unlike the commitment of divorce, legal separation allows a couple to split up without permanently changing any of their legal marital terms. This time can allow couples to decide whether or not divorce is ultimately the best decision for them. It can also provide the conditions necessary for couples to work through their problems, either individually or through marital counseling.

Keep in mind that legal separation is not permitted in all states. Here in Florida, the law DOES NOT recognize any legal documentation or marital separation. This means that if you and your spouse choose to separate, Florida law will not support any legally-binding arrangement made between the two of you if you decide to divorce down the line.

Not Sure if Divorce is Right For You?

If you are married and reconsidering your relationship, but are not ready to file for divorce, you may still have other legal options. Contact the Law Office of Shane T. Herbert at 407-887-7058 to get trusted legal advice from a seasoned Orlando marriage lawyer. Our Florida family law office is conveniently located in the Metro West area, within the Offices of Veranda Park, which offers free parking. And for your added convenience, office visits are not required for initial consultations! You can choose to have your first appointment over the phone or even video conference, if needed.

Orlando Family Lawyer 407-887-7058
Shane T. Herbert Law 407-887-7058