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Philadelphia Family Lawyer > Blog > Divorce > The Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce

The Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce


The decision on whether or not to separate or divorce is a difficult one. While we cannot make that decision for you, we can help you reach a conclusion on what the best course of action is for you personally. In this article, the Philadelphia divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Lauren H. Kane will discuss the major differences between separation and divorce in Pennsylvania.

Legal status of separation and divorce 

Pennsylvania does not recognize legal separation per se. However, couples can physically separate from each other while still being married.

A couple can be separated but still technically married. There are certain benefits to this that will be addressed later in the article. Couples who separate may want to create an agreement that states the terms of the separation. This separation agreement (also called a postnuptial agreement) can have the weight of a legally binding contract if both parties are willing to sign off on it.

What is a separation agreement? 

Spouses can enter into negotiated post-nuptial agreements that specify the terms of their separation in writing. However, signing this contract does not grant the couple any form of legal status. There is no such legal status under Pennsylvania law. If both parties are willing to sign the contract, then the contract is enforceable by the courts. The court can enforce the terms of this contract just like any other contract.

In some cases, a separation agreement or post-nuptial agreement will become the foundation for a divorce agreement later on. Separation agreements can cover such issues as:

  • Property division – The spouses can decide who stays in the marital home if they decide to live apart. This can also include an agreement related to a business venture or other valuable assets. You will also need to decide which belongings go to each party.
  • Child care and visitation – Separation agreements can also include provisions for childcare and visitation. You and your spouse will have to decide on a visitation schedule to share time with the children.
  • Support payments – Separation agreements can include provisions related to child support or alimony.

Benefits of legal separation in Pennsylvania 

Those who separate as opposed to divorce are still considered legally married. That means that they cannot remarry while they are separated. They will, however, be entitled to health insurance coverage under their spouse’s plan. Divorce will often terminate such benefits.

Separated individuals are considered married for the purpose of social security benefits and inheritance rights. Divorce could terminate such benefits.

Talking to an Attorney about Your Separation 

Even if you don’t plan on divorcing, you can have a Philadelphia divorce lawyer help you hammer out an actionable separation or post-nuptial agreement. The divorce lawyer at The Law Offices of Lauren H. Kane can help you draft an actionable separation agreement that meets your needs. Call our office today to schedule an appointment, and we can go over the details of your separation agreement with you and your spouse.

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