What’s the Difference Between Divorce & Legal Separation?

According to statistics from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, 6,398 marriage dissolutions occurred statewide in 2019, comprising 6,303 divorces and 95 annulments. Understanding the difference between a divorce and a separate maintenance ("legal separation") action is important. When you get a divorce, your marriage has legally ended. Conversely, when you get a legal separation, you remain legally married.

Jeffers Law Office is committed to offering experienced legal counsel and representation in family law and divorce/separate maintenance/annulment-related matters. Attorney Mark Jeffers will be available to discuss your situation and help you understand your legal options. Whether you are considering a divorce or legal separation or annulment, he will offer you the guidance, support, and advocacy you need to make key decisions.

Jeffers Law Office is proud to serve clients in Overland Park, Lenexa, Olathe, Shawnee, Prairie Village, Leawood, and Gardner Kansas, as well as throughout Johnson, Wyandotte, Miami, and Leavenworth Counties. Call today to schedule a free initial telephone consultation with an experienced Kansas divorce attorney.

Divorce in Kansas

Divorce can be described as the legal dissolution of a marriage pursuant to a court order (a "Decree of Divorce"). Pursuant to Kansas Statute Section 23-2701, a divorce can be granted by the court on any of the following grounds:

  • Incompatibility ("no-fault" grounds)
  • Failure to perform a material marital duty or obligation
  • Incompatibility by reason of mental illness or mental incapacity of one or both spouses

To file for divorce in Kansas, you or your spouse must have been living in the state for at least 60 days prior to filing. Also, there is a compulsory 60-day waiting period between filing for divorce and the finalization of the case.

Legal Separation in Kansas

A legal separation can be described as a court order (a "Decree of Separate Maintenance") that establishes the rights and duties of a couple while they remain legally married but live apart. Under Kansas law, this is known as a “separate maintenance” action. Getting a legal separation can allow spouses to resolve any financial matters such as support and asset/debt division and also make it possible for one spouse to inherit from the other spouse’s estate. Legal separation can be the ideal option for individuals with personal or religious beliefs that inhibit them from getting a divorce.

Similarities

Some of the similarities between a divorce and legal separation include:

  • The grounds needed for a legal separation are the same as those needed for a divorce
  • All issues related to a legal separation (including child custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support/maintenance ("alimony"), and property/debt division) are handled in the same way as in a divorce

Differences

There are some key differences between a legal separation and divorce, including:

  • Marital Status — A legal separation is a way for a couple to live separately without dissolving the marriage. The parties are still legally married under a legal separation and cannot remarry. In contrast, a divorce dissolves or terminates a marriage, and the parties are free to remarry.
  • Health Care and Other Benefits Legal separation may allow the couple to retain health care, Social Security, and other benefits through their spouse. Conversely, getting a divorce will terminate some or all of these benefits.
  • Property Rights Legal separation preserves the legal rights of each couple to inherit the other spouse’s estate or property upon their death unless such rights are waived as part of the agreement. In contrast, a divorce terminates such rights.
  • Debts and Liabilities In a legal separation, you may still be responsible for certain debts and liabilities of the other spouse such as hospital bills. Conversely, debts and liabilities will be divided during the divorce process.
  • Decision-Making Spouses will still be considered next of kin even after getting a legal separation. They are allowed to make financial or medical decisions for each other. This would not be possible once divorced, as ex-spouses will not be considered next of kin
  • Residency and Waiting Period - The 60-day residency requirement before filing and the mandatory 60-day waiting period to finalize the case do not apply to a legal separation action as they do in a divorce action

Choose a Skilled Attorney

Determining whether to file for divorce or legal separation in Kansas is a major decision. In order to make an informed decision, understanding the legal effects of each option is crucial. An experienced Kansas family law attorney will educate you about your options and help you make decisions that suit your needs.

Attorney Mark Jeffers is dedicated to providing comprehensive guidance to clients in divorce and legal separation matters. As your legal counsel, he will review the circumstances surrounding your situation and help you understand your options. Whether you are considering a divorce or legal separation, he will work diligently to establish a fair settlement agreement and help you move forward as quickly and peacefully as possible.

Contact Jeffers Law Office today to schedule a free initial telephone consultation with an experienced divorce attorney. The firm proudly serves clients in Overland Park, Lenexa, Olathe, Shawnee, Prairie Village, Leawood, and Gardner Kansas, as well as throughout Johnson, Wyandotte, Miami, and Leavenworth Counties.


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