What’s the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?

The greatest difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that if you proceed with a divorce, you are no longer married.

A legal separation only separates the two parties – they remain married.

Separation of the parties is grounds for immediate divorce once a Marital Settlement Agreement has been agreed to and signed by both parties. However, Maryland law does recognize limited divorces and absolute divorces.

difference between legal separation and divorceLimited divorces are actions before a Circuit Court in order to have a Master or a Judge make decisions for the parties.

This legal action is used mainly when the parties cannot agree on the terms of a Marital Settlement Agreement and immediate action is required, such as for child custody and support, among other matters.

For those reasons, a limited divorce may be your best option if you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of the divorce. Limited divorce can ease some of the headache and emotional drain of pursuing a full-on divorce first.

Process of Pursuing a Separation or Divorce

Once the parties have agreed to all terms and conditions of their separation and a Marital Settlement Agreement has been completed and executed, an action for Absolute Divorce may be filed with the Court. Once all parties are served and have filed Answers to the Complaint, a hearing is held before a Master in Chancery and an Absolute Divorce granted. 

Separation Agreements

Many couples in Maryland decide to live in different homes until an official divorce is granted. During that period of separation, it’s a good idea to produce and have notarized a Marital Settlement Agreement.

Produced with the help of a lawyer, a Marital Settlement Agreement will memorialize the agreements between the parties regarding issues like child custody and support, alimony, division of real and personal property, and other financial issues. The spouses’ lawyers will draft an Agreement in writing, which forms a binding contract once it’s executed by all parties In all  divorces, a Marital Settlement Agreement can be a useful tool for protecting your rights and the rights of your children.

Am I considered separated from my spouse if we live in the same house but sleep in different beds?

No, to be considered separated in the State of Maryland, couples cannot live in the same house or have sex. This is because the law treats separated couples as married until a Judge issues a Judgment of Divorce, even if the spouses live in different houses.

Assistance With Separation and Divorce

As you can tell, separation is not always straightforward. There are many legal complexities that often make the process confusing and difficult without the help of an attorney.

Wherever you are in the divorce or separation process, the experienced Howard County family lawyer at Coover Law Firm, LLC will work to facilitate it. Call (410) 553-5042 today.