Divorce Versus Legal Separation: What is best for me?

woman walking out

In Arizona, you have two choices when you want to end your marriage – a legal separation or a divorce. They differ in a few key ways, although they have in common that you will no longer share financial responsibility for one another, your property gets divided, and you’ll create a custody arrangement for children or pets.

Legal Separation

Legal separation uses mediation to divide the assets and create a custody agreement for any children in the marriage. You never have to go to court. You’ll only visit your attorney’s office.

When you file your taxes, you’ll file as “Married, Filing Separately.” One spouse can remain on the other spouse’s health insurance if desired.

You’ll no longer reside in the same household nor share debt, except as denoted in the separation papers. You will not share in future debt incurred by your spouse.

You remain married but live separately with your finances and property divided legally. You cannot re-marry while legally separated. If you choose to start with a legal separation, your attorney will create a “Stipulated Motion to Convert Legal Separation to Divorce” that both parties sign. This converts your legal separation agreement to a divorce once you re-file the “Petition For Dissolution of Marriage” and the “Affidavit of Service.”


When you file for and obtain a divorce, you end your marriage. This process also divides the marital property, financial assets, etc. You create a custody agreement that provides for primary custody or shared custody, and visitation for the non-custodial parent.

Once finalized, you won’t share anything with your spouse, financially. You can no longer appear on their health insurance. You can re-marry once you obtain a divorce.

The primary earner, meaning the spouse who earns the greater income, will pay a monthly stipend called alimony, to the spouse who earns less income. The non-custodial parent will pay child support to share in the cost of rearing their child or children.

Legal Separation vs Divorce in AZ

Some couples choose legal separation because of religious reasons or cultural needs. They may need to list the spouse on the other’s health insurance. Legal separation also provides a cooling-off period that lets you decide whether you want a divorce. It makes a good starting point since you can easily transition it to a divorce.

Choose a divorce attorney Scottsdale AZ residents can trust to help them with delicate family matters. Let Scottsdale divorce attorney Hope Fruchtman help you decide what’s right for your legal situation. In practice since 1995, Fruchtman Law Firm has the experience needed to help you make a comfortable transition from marriage to separation or divorce.