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What does it mean to be legally separated?

Sometimes, before getting divorced, a married couple in Dublin will live apart from one another before the divorce is finalized. They may consider themselves to be separated during that time, but what rights does that entail?

It is important to note that a spouse's rights differ under Ohio family law if they are merely living apart, are legally separated or are divorced.

A person's separation is only a legal separation if an action has been filed with the court alleging the grounds upon which the separation is based. This action will address many issues that are also present in a divorce, such as property division, spousal support, child custody and child support. So, unless a separation action is filed, and an order of separation is obtained, merely living apart does not afford a spouse the rights associated with a legal separation.

However, a legal separation is different from a divorce, even though both actions address many of the same legal issues. In a legal separation, the couple is still technically married. They are not free to marry someone else. A divorce legally ends a marriage, meaning that the spouses are considered single and can enter a subsequent marriage, should they so choose. Oftentimes, a separation order will form the basis of the final divorce decree, but for a divorce to occur one or both parties must take the necessary steps to terminate the marriage.

As this shows, living apart does not automatically mean a couple is legally separated with all the rights that entails, and a legal separation is not the same as a divorce, even though the two actions often address the same issues.

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