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What Is The Difference Between A Legal Separation And A Divorce?

Are you contemplating a divorce in Ohio but you don't know where to begin? Have you tried to read about the divorce process online but you are now more confused than before? If so, let the experienced Cincinnati divorce attorneys of King, Koligian & Associates, LLC clear up some of the misconceptions about Ohio divorces and legal separations.

What is an Ohio Legal Separation?

We are asked this question many times by people who want a divorce. They have heard that a legal separation is faster and cheaper than a divorce action; however, that is not the case. With changes in the Ohio family laws, a legal separation has evolved into an action that is very similar to an Ohio divorce action. In other words, the similarities between an Ohio legal separation and an Ohio divorce include:

  • You will spend about the same amount of money obtaining a legal separation as you will filing a divorce action;
  • It will take approximately the same amount of time to complete a legal separation as a divorce action;
  • You must serve your spouse with notice in the same manner as a divorce action;
  • The same rules apply to legal separations as they do to divorces; and,
  • The evidentiary rules and discovery rules are the same.

While there are one or two slight differences in terms of jurisdiction, a legal separation will result in the same types of judicial orders, and a legal separation will be just as expensive as a divorce.

One major advantage of a legal separation is that all issues that would be decided in the divorce are usually decided in the legal separation. The issues regarding custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property division have been settled and incorporated into the order granting the legal separation. The theory of a legal separation was to settle all of these issues in advance of petitioning the court to dissolve the marriage (i.e. a legal divorce). When one, or both, of the parties are ready, they would then file a Complaint for Divorce.

Unless something drastic had changed between the order granting the legal separation and the final hearing for the divorce petition, the court will typically incorporate the agreements between the parties contained in the legal separation into the final divorce decree. It is very rare that the judge would change the terms of a legal separation when granting the final divorce decree, except in cases where the parties agreed to keep jurisdiction open on one or more issues to be decided at a final divorce hearing.

A Legal Separation Sounds Great, Right?

The drawback of a legal separation is that you are not legally divorced. It's rarely beneficial for parties to obtain a legal separation over a divorce today because the parties will be required to spend more money at a later date to file a petition for divorce, should they decide to go through with one. The process of obtaining a legal separation and then a divorce is more costly and time-consuming, in most cases, compared to simply filing for divorce.

In spite of increased cost, a couple may seek a legal separation for a variety of reasons including:

  • Religious beliefs
  • Insurance issues
  • Retirement benefits
  • Tax incentives
  • Family customs and beliefs

In the long run, it is usually more beneficial for a couple to petition for a divorce and skip the entire legal separation; however, our divorce attorneys understand there may be considerations that are unique to your situation. We encourage you to come into our office, meet with an experienced divorce attorney, and find out the truth about legal separation and divorces before you make a decision on how to proceed in your case.

Call our office at (513) 793-2353 or use our online contact for to schedule an appointment or ask questions about Ohio divorces.

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