The terms “separation” and “divorce” are commonly used when a married couple parts ways, but what is the legal difference between the two under Maryland family law? This is a common question from individuals and families looking to move on from a marital relationship. Here is some information to help individuals understand how separation and divorce differ, and how to approach either or both in ending a marriage.
What is a separation?
When a couple is legally separated, they essentially live separate lives while still being married under the law. This requires a separation agreement, which can lay out details such as child and spousal support, custody, and division of assets or debts. This agreement may carry over to the divorce, if the couple chooses to formally end their marriage and are satisfied with the arrangement.
What is a divorce?
Following the separation period, a couple may elect to divorce. The terms in the separation agreement are not necessarily the terms of the divorce, though they might be if each party agrees with it. If there are changes to be made between the separation agreement and final divorce, a separate agreement can be drawn up for the divorce settlement. Regardless, terms of the divorce will likely be informed by the terms of the separation.
How to divorce following a legal separation period
It is beneficial to have a well-thought-out separation agreement, as it can make finalizing a divorce an easier process. It can also make it possible to be separated for a longer period, if this is preferred by the parties involved. Working with an experienced Maryland family lawyer from the initiation of the separation can provide insight into whether a divorce would be a beneficial route in one’s particular case.