Divorce and Separation have different legal status and may also differ in terms of custody of children. A divorce is a court judgment that ends a marriage. A separation is a condition where a couple live apart without getting a divorce. At the time of a divorce and separation, various issues such as custody of children, financial burden, asset control etc. have to be settled between a couple. In a divorce, the court decides these issues while in a separation, the couple themselves have to agree upon them. Every nation except Malta and Philippines has legal divorce.

Comparison chart

Divorce versus Separation comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartDivorceSeparation
Issues settled by Court Mutually
Duration Lifelong On mutual decision
Types 3 3
Legal status Yes No (except for in a legal separation)

Legal status

Divorce is a legal end to a marriage as the court is validating it. Separation is not considered legal as the couple have mutually decided to part ways. But in some countries, separation can be given a legal status by getting a legal separation done. In a legal separation, a couple live apart and also disentangle their finances without getting a divorce. In this either the couple can reconcile later or in due course get a divorce.

Issues settled in a divorce vs separation

Some of the issues that need to be decided in a divorce judgment are:

  1. the grounds (legal reason) for the divorce;
  2. custody of children;
  3. support of children;
  4. visitation with the children;
  5. division of assets (for example, pensions, bank accounts or stocks);
  6. alimony (or support for the spouse);
  7. division of personal property (for example, car or furniture);
  8. what will happen to any real estate;
  9. who gets to live in the marital home;
  10. division of debts (for example, credit cards or electric bills);
  11. name change; and
  12. possibly, an order for protection from abuse.

In a separation, the couple may decide what issues they want to settle themselves and there is rule about which issues to address. They may just decide to live apart without settling things like finances and assets. Sometimes, separation is just a transition phase that leads to divorce or a legal separation and hence some issues are not addressed while separation.

Types of divorce and separation

The basic types of divorce's are "Fault" divorce, "no fault" divorce and summary divorce. The first is a condition where various grounds are stated for the divorce and in the second no grounds are stated. A summary divorce is when the couple meets certain criteria and hence is eligible for a divorce. A separation can be mutual separation where a couple just lives apart and a legal separation wherein a couple enter a legal agreement for separation. A third form of separation can be a trial separation where a couple lives apart for a test period, to decide whether or not to separate permanently.

Duration of separation and Permanence of divorce

A divorce is permanent- it makes a marriage void and hence the marriage no longer exists. After a divorce if a couple decides to get back together again then it is a new relationship and a new marriage. A separation does not make a marriage void and a couple might get together again as their marriage has not ended. Hence, a separation may not be life long.

Further Reading

For further reading, there are several books available on Amazon.com on divorce and separation:


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