Ending a relationship is never easy. In fact, divorce and marital separation manage to crack the top five in the list of most stressful life events. It’s no wonder that these events are so stressful. Not only is a relationship ending, but it typically means massive changes to your lifestyle. It can involve uprooting your children, cutting off ties with friends or family, financial stressors — the list goes on. The stress that comes from ending a relationship is not news. This comes as a surprise to no one. What might be more surprising to people is the knowledge that there are separation options outside of divorce.

As we discussed in our previous blog series on myths surrounding divorce, many folks hold the belief that divorce is the only option when ending a marriage. That’s simply not true. There are other options that we will take a look at today. It’s not enough to just know of the potential options, however. We will also be taking a look at why and when certain options make sense. Our hope is that this will help you figure out what’s best for you. The Law Office of Ronald Kossack is here to help. Be sure to reach out to us for family law assistance in Tempe. We look forward to hearing from you!


The first thing we should look at is divorce. As mentioned, this is typically what people think of when a marriage is ending. To best understand a divorce, it’s helpful to remember that a marriage is a legally-binding contract. This might not be the most romantic way of thinking of marriage, but it’s the best way to think of it in terms of law. 

As a contract, it’s possible for it to be terminated. A divorce — also known as dissolution of marriage — means that your marriage will no longer be recognized under the law, permanently ending the marriage contract. In order to permanently end the marriage contract, the parties and the court must decide how to handle the questions of custody and placement of the minor children and how to divide the property and debts of the parties.

Legal Separation

Unlike a divorce, a legal separation will keep the marriage contract intact. This means that spouses will still be considered married under the law. That’s the primary difference between a divorce and a legal separation. It’s also important to note that a legal separation is also different from an informal or trial separation where you and your spouse simply choose to live apart. This is not the same thing as a legal separation.

What’s important to keep in mind is that a legal separation, like a divorce, is sanctioned by the law. Unlike a trial separation, a legal separation is formally recognized by a court and actually changes marital obligations toward one another.

What are the Benefits of Legal Separation?

Because legal separation is recognized by the courts, this allows you to turn to the courts to help with the proceedings. You can ask the courts to divide property and debts and resolve custody, support, and alimony issues. Obviously, this is not an option during an informal separation. It’s helpful to turn to an attorney for assistance with family law issues even during a legal separation. 

Again, during a legal separation, spouses are still legally married, which entitles them to certain protections and benefits. This is another one of the benefits of legal separation. You can, for instance, still share health care or insurance benefits when legally separated. You will also continue to receive the tax benefits that come from being legally married. With legal separation, you can get these benefits while also being able to separate from your spouse. 

Is Legal Separation Right for Me?

With this in mind, what are some situations that might make legal separation a better option than divorce? After all, be it divorce or legal separation, you will still want to discuss family law with an attorney and you will still have to involve the courts. So, when might legal separation be a good option?

Legal separation could be right for you if you’re unsure about the state of your marriage in the future. Perhaps you’re both in a situation where you know that things need to change, but you’re not sure that you want it to be permanent. Sometimes there’s agreement that the legal benefits of marriage are worth legal separation instead of a divorce. Legal separation has the potential to be less financially burdensome. It’s also common for people to choose legal separation for religious reasons. Some people feel as though a divorce is going against their religion. Legal separation allows for people to step away from the situation without necessarily getting a legal divorce. In the case of children, what matters is choosing what’s best for them. Sometimes that might be a legal separation instead of a divorce. Sometimes that’s not the case.

Divorce might remain a better choice in cases where you know that you want to get remarried at some point in the future, or in cases where both parties are simply emotionally ready for the marriage to be over. 

Family Law in Tempe

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer with how to proceed in your marriage. Perhaps neither divorce nor legal separation is the right choice for you. Perhaps a trial separation or couples counseling is the right move for you at this time. Whatever the case may be, The Law Office of Ronald Kossack can help make the situation less of a burden. We are here to answer any and all of your family law questions. Don’t let the stress of separation overwhelm you — reach out to the Law Office of Ronald Kossack for family law in Tempe today.