Legal Separation Vs. Divorce In Arizona: Key Differences + Benefits

Many couples ask about legal separation vs. divorce, and the key differences and benefits that come with each. The truth is, they are more alike than they are different. You will go through a similar filing process. Plus, you’ll need to reach an agreement on several important things before you can go your separate ways. This post clarifies the differences between legal separation vs. divorce in Arizona and gives a framework for when you may choose one over the other.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be legal advice. You should always talk to a family law attorney about your unique situation.

Legal separation vs. divorce in Arizona: the basics

Like divorce, you will need to make choices about a few topics during a legal separation. These generally include:

– Parenting time and legal decision-making

– Child support

– Division of assets and debts

– Spousal maintenance (alimony)

If you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement, you will have to work with your attorneys through negotiation or mediation. If that doesn’t work, your case may go to court. A judge will have the final say on any issues left undecided.

Both divorce and legal separation end with financial and physical separation, yet you are still technically married after a legal separation.

On the other hand, getting a divorce will dissolve your marriage completely. This means you can both move on as single people and later remarry, if you choose.

Why would you get a legal separation instead of a divorce?

There are several reasons for choosing a legal separation instead of a divorce. A legal separation will end any continuing community property interests between the two of you, allowing you to live apart without sharing finances. However, the marriage is technically still intact. In order to file for legal separation, both parties must agree, otherwise the court will convert a legal separation into a petition for dissolution.

Let’s take a look at why some couples opt for a legal separation over divorce.


For some couples, religious beliefs against divorce lead them to legally separate.

This allows each person to go their own way without actually ending the marriage. It also leaves room for possible reconciliation in the future.

Health insurance

After a legal separation, most health insurance companies will still consider you and your spouse to be married. This means your health insurance benefits may not change.

If you don’t have a job, or you don’t have health insurance through your employer, you may want to think about legal separation. It may allow you to keep the policy you have in place with your spouse.

Time to reflect

In many cases, one or both parties feel they need more time to reflect before deciding on divorce.

Even if you know the marriage is headed in that direction, perhaps you aren’t emotionally ready. Maybe you want to allow for possible reconciliation because you have children together.

Whatever the reason, a legal separation can give you space to think about the relationship before moving forward with a divorce.

Financial benefits

Legal separation may be a smart financial option in certain cases.

For instance, if you are married for at least ten years, you may qualify to receive Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s benefits. Because of this, some people choose to legally separate until they reach ten years of marriage. After that window of time, they file for a formal divorce.

The rules on this are complicated, however, so it’s always best undertaken with an attorney’s help.

Legal separation benefits

It’s important to understand that a legal separation isn’t easier to navigate than a divorce. It may involve the same amount of money because of attorney and/or mediation fees. Plus, it takes time and puts stress on you and your family.

But even with those disadvantages, many couples view legal separation as a better option. If you worry about healthcare coverage or financial liability, legal separation can ease some of these concerns.

While a divorce allows each person to move on and marry someone else, legal separation does not. For many couples with children, this provides some peace of mind. It ensures no one else will enter their kids’ lives as a step-parent, which is a concern for some.

Legal separation allows you to think about the marriage and reflect on what is best for your family. Many couples use this as a trial run to decide if divorce is really what they want. Both of you may decide to take the separation a step further and file for divorce. Or you can undo the legal separation and stay married.

Benefits of divorce in Arizona

If both people are sure of their decision to leave the marriage, divorce may be a better option than legal separation. This enables you to move forward as single individuals, which means you can remarry if and when you choose.

While legal separation gives you the chance to have separate finances, divorce will completely end this relationship. You will need to file taxes on a singular basis, and you will not have any shared insurance policies or the like.

Should I get a legal separation or divorce?

The choice to separate from your spouse is a difficult one regardless of whether you divorce or legally separate. It is a personal decision you should make with careful consideration.

If you’re concerned about the legal or financial aspect of dissolving your marriage, an attorney can help. If you have children or shared assets, it is important to know your options in order to protect your future. Our team at ARTEMiS Law Firm will give you the respect and support you need during this difficult process.

Not sure whether a legal separation or divorce is the right choice for your unique situation? The attorneys at ARTEMiS Law Firm can answer any questions you have and even guide you through the process of filing. Contact us today.

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