Divorce vs Separation: What’s the Difference?

by David Betz on Nov. 10, 2023

Divorce & Family Law Divorce & Family Law  Divorce 

Summary: Divorce legally ends a marriage, allowing remarriage, while separation involves living apart without dissolving the marriage. Divorce involves asset division and legal ramifications, unlike informal separations. Reconciliation is easier after separation than divorce.

Marriage is a journey filled with its share of challenges, twists, and unexpected crossroads. While the vow is for life, it’s estimated that around 40% of first marriages and 60% of second marriages ultimately conclude in divorce. However, it's crucial to recognize that not every marital dispute necessitates the finality of divorce. An alternative avenue, often overlooked, is legal separation. Unfortunately, many individuals tend to conflate these two legal processes. In this article, we’ll discuss the nuanced distinctions between divorce and separation, offering clarity to those grappling with complex decisions about the future of their marriage. By demystifying these options, we intend to empower individuals to make well-informed choices regarding their relationships.


What Is Divorce?

Divorce, in essence, is the legal termination of a marital union. While it may not be framed as a constitutional right, the legal system recognizes divorce as it aligns with broader societal interests. Divorce comes in two primary forms: contested and uncontested. In the former, one spouse dissents with the proposed divorce terms, leading to a contentious process. Conversely, in uncontested divorces, both parties concur on the terms, facilitating a smoother transition out of the marriage.


What Is Marital Separation?

A marital separation is a legal agreement between a husband and wife to stop living together. This doesn’t necessarily mean a complete termination of the marriage contract. It just means that the spouses have found it best to live separately and alter their marriage terms slightly in light of the prevailing situations.


Difference Between Marriage and Separation

While divorce and separation involve the distancing of married couples, the two are inherently different. The main differences between marriage and separation include:


Legal Status

A divorce is a formal legal process that dissolves marriage, annulling the previous marriage contract. While separation is legally recognized, it doesn’t terminate the marriage but only involves the couples living separately, sometimes temporarily.


Marital Status

Divorced couples are no longer married and can re-marry. Separated couples are still married and cannot marry other people unless they get a divorce and terminate their current marriage.


Financial and Legal Consequences

After a divorce, couples must split their assets, divide property, and determine maintenance expenses like alimony and child support. The law spells out the division of assets, liabilities, and responsibilities. All discussions on finances during separations are informal and generally have no legal bearing.



Reconciling after a divorce is a complicated process, but about 10% to 15% of couples that divorce reconcile and get back together. However, they have to go through the legal process of remarrying. On the other hand, couples that separate can live together once more after a verbal consensus.


Speak With a St. Louis Family Law Attorney

Facing the complexities of divorce or separation? Look no further than The Betz Law Firm, where we specialize in guiding you through this challenging time. We're dedicated to simplifying the divorce process and providing the support you need. Contact us today to ensure your legal rights are protected. Call (314) 801-8488.

Legal Articles Additional Disclaimer

Lawyer.com is not a law firm and does not offer legal advice. Content posted on Lawyer.com is the sole responsibility of the person from whom such content originated and is not reviewed or commented on by Lawyer.com. The application of law to any set of facts is a highly specialized skill, practiced by lawyers and often dependent on jurisdiction. Content on the site of a legal nature may or may not be accurate for a particular state or jurisdiction and may largely depend on specific circumstances surrounding individual cases, which may or may not be consistent with your circumstances or may no longer be up-to-date to the extent that laws have changed since posting. Legal articles therefore are for review as general research and for use in helping to gauge a lawyer's expertise on a matter. If you are seeking specific legal advice, Lawyer.com recommends that you contact a lawyer to review your specific issues. See Lawyer.com's full Terms of Use for more information.