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Legal Separation vs Divorce: Understanding the Key Differences

Legal Separation vs. Divorce: Understanding the Key Differences

When a marriage has problems, figuring out what to do next can be hard. You may have heard of divorce and civil separation, but what do they mean? Legal separation is like taking a break from your marriage while still married. Divorce, however, means that you are no longer married.

In this article, we’ll talk about the key differences between these two paths so you can decide which one might be best for you. We will discuss which is better, the difference between separation and divorce, the types of separation, and many more. As a result, it will be easier for you to choose the best option.

Is it Better to Separate or Divorce?

Choosing whether to live apart or get a divorce is a very personal and hard decision. Here are some important things to think about:

Marital Problems

Figure out your marriage problems and how bad they are. If the problems are temporary or caused by a specific situation, a trial separation could be a way to deal with them without ending the marriage.

Emotional Well-Being

Think about how you and your partner feel. Sometimes, a break can give both people a chance to work on personal growth and self-discovery before deciding on divorce.


If you have kids, their well-being is the most important thing. A legal separation with clear child care and support plans can bring security. It helps to get back together.

Effects on your Finances

Take a look at your finances. Separation can benefit your finances, like keeping certain insurance plans or getting tax breaks. But divorce can give you long-term financial freedom.

What is the Difference Between Separated and Legally Separated in Canada?

There is a difference between being separated and being legally separated in Canada. Both mean that a married couple is living apart, but being separated is not the same as being legally separated.


Being “separated” just means that a married couple is living apart, either by choice or because of problems in their relationship. A legal method may or may not be used to make this split official. During a breakup, a pair can make informal plans for child custody, child support, and property division.

Legally Separated

In Canada, getting legally separated is a proper legal process. Legal separation doesn’t end the marriage. The couple is still formally married, but they live apart and have a legal document that says what their rights and responsibilities are while they’re apart. This deal covers things like the division of property, spousal support, and the custody and support of children.

Is Legal Separation the Same as Divorce?

Legal separation is when a married couple decides to live apart but stays married. They might sort out things like who gets what and who takes care of the kids.

Divorce is when a married couple decides to end their marriage. They split up officially and can marry someone else afterward.

So, in legal separation, they’re still married, while in divorce, they’re not anymore.

What are the Three Types of Separation?

There are three types of separation. These are narrated below:

Trial separation

It is a short-term breakup that gives the couple time to decide whether to get back together or divorce. During a trial breakup, the couple can live apart or stay together but sleep in different rooms.

Permanent separation

This separation will last for good and is meant to end the marriage. During a permanent separation, the pair does not live together and is not legally married.

Legal Separation

This formal process lets married people live apart but still be married. This is a less common way to split up. It’s usually done when getting a divorce would be against religious or national beliefs.

What are my Legal Rights in a Separation Canada?

In Canada, you have several legal rights and benefits if you are going through a separation. Here are some of the most important parts of your legal rights when you separate in Canada:

Property Division

In most provinces, property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property. It will be split equally between the spouses, no matter who got it or whose name it is in.

Spousal Support

One spouse may pay the other after separation. Spousal support can be temporary or permanent. It depends on the length of the marriage, the spouses’ salaries, and the spouse receiving support.

Child Support

Child support is money one parent pays the other to care for their children. Child support is usually paid until the child turns 18, but it can be paid longer if the child has special needs.  Child support depends on how much each parent makes, what the children require, and how much time they spend together.

Custody and Access

Custody is the legal right to decide a child’s upbringing, including where they reside, what school they attend, and what medical care they receive. The right to spend time with a child is access. Children are usually shared between separated parents. However, the children’s best interests will determine custody and access arrangements.

Alternatives To Divorce For Older Couples

When older people have problems in their marriage, divorce may not always be the best or most practical option. There are a few things that can be done instead of getting a divorce:

Counseling for Married People

Couples therapy or counseling can give you a safe place to talk about communication problems, rebuild closeness, and solve fights. Many older couples find that therapy can help them get back together.

Legal Separation

Couples over 50 can choose legal separation instead of a full divorce. This lets them live apart and make clear money and childcare plans while officially married. It gives you options and can help you legally and financially.


In mediation, people work with a neutral third party to help them talk and come to an agreement. It can be a less contentious way to understand things like property division, child support, and who gets to keep the kids.

Collaborative Divorce

In a collaborative divorce, each partner hires an attorney but agrees to negotiate solutions to problems instead of going to court. This way of doing things can be more friendly and save money.

Disadvantages Of Legal Separation

There are some disadvantages of legal separation. These are narrated below:

Legal Ties

A legal split does not end the marriage; you are still married on paper. This means you may still have to pay for your spouse’s bills and have certain legal rights and responsibilities, like the right to an inheritance.

No Remarriage

Since you’re still formally married during a separation, you can only get married again once the divorce is finalized. This could make it harder for you to find love in the future.


Legal separation is complicated because it includes legal steps, like making a separation agreement, which can take time and cost money. This level of complexity can lead to disagreements and more court costs.

Emotional Uncertainty

Since the couple is still formally together, there may be emotional uncertainty. This can confuse both people, especially if their thoughts about getting back together differ.

Benefits of Legal Separation vs Divorce

The choice between legal separation and divorce depends on individual circumstances, preferences, and the specific needs of the couple who wants to be apart from their partner.

Legal separation offers some benefits compared to divorce. While living apart, couples in legal separation maintain certain benefits of marriage, such as healthcare and tax benefits. They also have the chance to try living separately before making a final decision about divorce. It allows them to sort out issues like property and child custody without rushing into a divorce. Religious or personal beliefs may influence the choice of legal separation for a few couples over divorce since it maintains marital status as well as offering space.

Divorce provides a clear and final end to the marriage. It allows both individuals to remarry and start a new life with someone they want to be with for the rest of their lives. Divorce terminates the marital ties and enables each party to make independent decisions about their lives without any lingering legal connections to their ex-spouse. Sometimes divorce can be more decisive; it may also involve the loss of certain benefits or rights associated with marriage, like health insurance benefits, social security benefits, retirement benefits and pensions, and tax benefits.


Legal separation and divorce have different repercussions and effects. The option depends on your circumstances, emotions, and long-term ambitions.

Consult a family lawyer for experienced advice and help with either process before deciding. Your choice affects your future and your family’s. Therefore, it should match your values, finances, and emotional well-being.


Is separation harder than divorce?

The difficulty of separation and divorce depends on the conditions. Neither is harder or easier; each has its obstacles.

How long should a separation last?

A trial separation lasts for three to six months. Reuniting with your spouse becomes harder the longer you are separated.

What is legal separation vs. divorce cost in Canada?

A legal separation cost in Canada is $1,500–$2,000. On the other hand, $12,875 for disputed divorce and $1,353 for uncontested divorce. Going to court for a divorce could cost over $50,000.

Why would you get a legal separation instead of a divorce?

Legal separation might offer you time to decide whether to leave your marriage while preserving your finances. Couples who cannot divorce for religious reasons can also legally separate.

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