The Difference Between Separation And Divorce

The Difference Between Separation And Divorce

You can be separated from a spouse you are legally married to, but that is not what getting a divorce is.

A divorce is an order of the court. It is a legal document that only says one thing: you are not married anymore. Unlike a separation, when parties decide their spousal relationship is “over,” a divorce cannot simply be decided upon. A divorce has to be in the form of a court order and must be applied for by one or both parties. A divorce is a court order.

If you apply for a divorce, you must let the court know the grounds (or reasons) for your divorce.

In Canada, for example, there are three reasons for the court to grant a divorce:

⚡️ The spouses have lived separately for at least one year
⚡️ Adultery
⚡️ Mental and/or physical cruelty (abuse)

Obtaining a divorce is not mandatory.

Obtaining a court order stating that they are divorced is not a priority for everyone—some people who are separated never obtain a divorce.

If you intend to not bother with obtaining the formal order for divorce, you will want to ensure you have a separation agreement. A legally binding separation agreement will protect you from unintended consequences (such as a continued obligation regarding property division) if you stay formally married.

A word of caution regarding not getting an order for divorce:

If you wish to protect your property, you must get a binding separation agreement dealing with parenting, support, and property if you have not yet received a final divorce.

It is essential to consult with a legal representative in your jurisdiction to ensure you know your specific rights and obligations.


Both married and unmarried spouses can separate.

To separate, all you have to do is decide that your spousal relationship is over, inform your spouse, and start behaving in a way that reflects your decision.

Whether you intend to get a divorce or not, you want to get a separation agreement (or court order) that finalizes and clarifies your legal rights and responsibilities going forward. Don’t end up like Olek.

If you are feeling a bit stuck, overwhelmed or stressed, don’t hesitate to reach out. I have got your back:



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