Legal Separation vs. Dissolution of Marriage

Family Law
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What is a dissolution of marriage proceeding, and how does it differ from a legal separation?

Minnesota law defines a legal separation as “a court determination of the rights and responsibilities of a husband and wife arising out of the marital relationship. A decree of legal separation does not terminate the marital status of the parties.” On the other hand, the law defines the dissolution of marriage as “the termination of the marital relationship between a husband and wife. A decree of dissolution completely terminates the marital status of both parties.”

In other words, a legal separation is a determination, at a given point in time, of the legal rights of persons who are still married but living separately. It is not, as is commonly believed, a “trial separation” period during which parties contemplate a possible dissolution of marriage, but it’s also not a “final” determination. A dissolution of marriage proceeding terminates the marriage and is therefore final. The objective of each proceeding is to disentangle the finances of the two parties, determination of child custody and support (if applicable), and so forth. A dissolution of marriage proceeding is the most common approach to resolve these issues. Legal separations are uncommon, but are a good option in some circumstances.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that if parties ultimately decide to divorce, a second court proceeding may be required, at additional time and expense, to provide finality.

If you are considering a divorce or legal separation, please contact the experience family law attorneys at Melchert Hubert Sjodin.