Separation and Divorce

Legal Separation


What is legal separation? After a breakup, why do some couples want a legal separation? Do the spouses have to be separated before they can file for divorce?

Separation from Bed and Board

The official name for legal separation is “separation from bed and board.”

Spouses who want a separation from bed and board must file a request in court. This request must be based on the fact that they don’t want to live together anymore.

Separation from bed and board means that the spouses can do these things:

  • stay married without living together
  • decide on the consequences of their separation
  • get a court judgment (decision) that explains their rights and responsibilities

A separation court judgment can cover these issues:

Reasons Couples Apply for Separation

Here are some reasons why couples ask for legal separation:

  • One spouse wants to settle the consequences of the breakup as soon as possible but can’t yet meet the legal requirements to ask for a divorce.
  • Divorce goes against the religious beliefs of one of the spouses.
  • One spouse isn’t ready to permanently end the marriage.

Some Differences Between Divorce and Separation

The spouses don’t have to be legally separated before filing for divorce: they can apply for a divorce without going through a separation first.

This table lists a few differences between separation and divorce.



Spouses are still married.

It ends the marriage.

Spouses can’t remarry.

The spouses can remarry.

The spouses owe each other the gifts made in their marriage contract, unless the separation judgment says differently.

Some gifts made in the marriage contract are cancelled automatically.