If you and your spouse are contemplating divorce, one thing is certain: Divorce is final. Perhaps you are not ready to take this step; many couples are not entirely sure that divorce is what they really want.

There is another solution to the marital issues you have. You could opt for a legal separation, which offers certain advantages.

Reasons for separating

In addition to getting a taste of what divorce would be like, people who decide on a legal separation find that it solves a particular problem. For example, your religion may prevent you and your spouse from divorcing. Health care considerations may also play a role in your decision. If the health care insurance coverage provided by your company covers your nonworking spouse, remaining legally married would allow that to continue. In addition, your nonworking spouse needs to log in 10 years of marriage in order to be eligible for Social Security benefits linked to your earnings. Another reason for a legal separation is that you do not want to forgo the benefits you and your spouse receive from filing income tax jointly.

Living apart

A legal separation would allow you and your spouse to live apart and pursue separate lives while remaining married. In fact, it may be a good temporary solution if you are having financial troubles. A court order would set out your rights and responsibilities and those of your spouse.

Mirroring the divorce decree

A legal separation agreement includes all the points you would find in a divorce agreement, including how to distribute property, how much alimony and child support you should pay or receive, and how to manage marital debts. While a legal separation can begin as soon as the paperwork is completed, signed and filed with the court, remember that you and your spouse must meet Ohio residency requirements in order to qualify. The bottom line is that in many respects, a legal separation is a perfect solution for some couples in addition to its use as a precursor to divorce.