When it comes to legal separation, the lines often seem a little unclear about how it works.  How does it differ from divorce? When do you become officially separated? Here are some facts and answers to a few common legal separation questions.

Legal Separation: Facts and Questions

Legal Separation vs. Separation?

One question you may have is how this differs from just separation? Is it not enough that you and your spouse decided to split and stopped living together. Do you have to legalize it? In short, no you don’t have to. By legalizing it, you can come to a legal agreement that defines important topics for your separation. For instance, a separation agreement can outline rules for child support, custody agreements, and even spousal support. So it’s a way of making these important issues official and having the agreement in writing.

Do I need a legal separation in order to get a divorce?

In order to get a divorce in South Carolina, you and your spouse must live separately for one year. However, you don’t have to obtain a legal separation in order to do that. As long as you know the date when you began living apart, that will suffice.

How is it different from a divorce?

Legal separation differs from divorce in a number of ways. First, even though you become separated legally, the state still recognizes your marriage. So it does not mean you can marry someone else or consider yourself unmarried. Second, in this state divorce is a no-fault situation. That means neither spouse has to admit fault in order to get divorce. But legal separation requires that you prove that one spouse was at fault for the split. Reasons for fault include adultery, abandonment, and cruel treatment or abuse. In addition, drug and alcohol abuse can also act as reasons for fault when filing for a separation.

After filing a complaint, you must go before a court and allow them to hear your case. Then, they can decide to grant you a legal separation. While you must separate then wait a year in order to get a divorce, you can legally separate immediately with no wait. Also, the time that you spend legally separated can count towards the year of separation required for divorce.