What Is the Difference Between Divorce and Separation?

When facing marital difficulties, it’s crucial to understand your options. In Massachusetts, spouses often contemplate between divorce and separation. It’s a complex area, but at Reade Law Firm, PC, we’re here to help clarify these options in a way that’s easy to understand and relevant to your situation.

Divorce Explained

Divorce signifies the legal end of a marriage. In Massachusetts, the process involves the distribution of assets and determination of child custody and support and may include alimony arrangements. It’s a final decision, meaning you’re legally recognized as single and free to remarry once the divorce is granted. We guide our clients through this process, focusing on their priorities and well-being. Here is a more extensive explanation:

  • Distribution of Assets: Divide the property and assets accumulated during the marriage. It’s a crucial part of the process, where factors like the length of the marriage, each spouse’s contribution, and future financial needs are considered to ensure a fair division.
  • Determination of Child Custody and Support: If children are involved, decisions need to be made about who will have custody (legal and physical) and how the children will be supported financially. This part of the process focuses on the children’s best interests, considering their needs, the parents’ living situations, and other relevant factors.
  • Alimony Arrangements: Alimony, or spousal support, might be a component of the divorce. It involves financial support from one spouse to the other, typically when there’s a significant disparity in earning capacities or living standards.


Separation, while less common, is an option for couples who may not be ready for divorce. It allows you to live apart while remaining legally married. This can be beneficial for various reasons, such as religious beliefs, insurance benefits, or the hope of reconciliation. In Massachusetts, separation addresses many of the same issues as divorce. Here’s a breakdown of what legal separation entails:

  • Continued Legal Marriage Status: Unlike divorce, separation allows couples to live separate lives while still legally married. This means they retain their marital status, which can be important for various reasons.
  • Benefits of Remaining Married: There are several reasons why couples might choose separation over divorce. These can include:
    • Religious Beliefs: Some religions discourage or do not recognize divorce. Separation allows couples to live separately without violating their religious principles.
    • Insurance Benefits: Being legally married can allow one spouse to remain on the other’s health insurance plan or benefit from other insurance-related advantages.
    • Hope of Reconciliation: Couples who are unsure about ending their marriage might opt for separation, which leaves the door open for reconciliation.
  • Addressing Similar Issues as Divorce: In Massachusetts, the separation process involves many of the same considerations as divorce. This includes:
    • Asset Division: The couple should decide how to divide their property and assets, though they remain legally married.
    • Child Custody and Support: If children are involved, separation requires arrangements for their custody and support, similar to divorce. The focus is on the children’s best interests, ensuring their stability and care.
  • Marriage Does Not End: The critical difference between separation and divorce is that the marriage does not legally end in a separation. Couples remain married in the eyes of the law, which can have significant implications for their legal rights and obligations.

Key Differences

The primary difference between divorce and separation in Massachusetts is the marital status post-process. Divorce ends the marriage, while separation does not. This distinction affects your rights and responsibilities, such as financial liabilities, tax implications, and eligibility to remarry. We help you understand these nuances to make informed decisions.

Contact Us, Reade Law Firm, PC, To Help You Through the Divorce Process

Choosing between divorce and separation is a significant decision. Let the knowledgeable team at Reade Law Firm, PC, empower you to find your best way forward during and after the divorce. We help you achieve the objectives that mean the most to you while preserving your peace of mind. Contact us online or at (978) 767-8383 to schedule a confidential consultation. We’re happy to help.