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For some couples in California there comes a time when they know that they must end their relationship. For those who are married, this means filing for divorce. For others, legal separation is a better choice due to the opportunity for the dependent spouse to maintain medical insurance and other benefits. So which one is right for you?

In a dissolution, or divorce, a couple divides all assets and property and works to settle issues such as child custody and spousal support. Once completed, a final decree is created and a marriage is legally ended. For a dependent spouse this can mean a challenging financial future. In particular, the length of the marriage that ends in divorce can affect benefits such as Social Security and medical insurance.

Legal separation, on the other hand, is a separation between spouses but not a legal end to the marriage. In this case, a couple goes through a procedure very similar to divorce. However, at the end of the process they are still legally married. This can mean that a dependent spouse can retain medical insurance and other benefit rights.

In both cases there are benefits and challenges for each spouse. What is most important is that a person considering ending a marriage through divorce, or doing a trial period through legal separation, understands all of their options prior to a divorce filing. Becoming fully informed can help both parties find a sense of security and reassurance during what can be a stressful time as they prepare for their respective new lives.

Source: Fox Business, "Separation or divorce? What each means for your finances," July 25, 2012

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