Legal separation is a formal judgment issued by a court of law that focuses on all the issues concerning a marriage, with the exception of marital status. A judgment of a legal-separation lawsuit leaves the couple with the legal status of married and an agreement of obligations that each spouse has to the other. Spouses who are legally separated are not free to marry another person since neither has been returned to the legal status of a single person.
Legal separation is usually pursued when the parties want to stay married for religious reasons, want the advantage of deductibility of spousal support payments for income tax reasons or do not want to wait the state statutory waiting period for execution of marital status. For some people, a legal separation is desired to set the guidelines for dealing with one another while living apart while maintaining the status of being married and leaving the door open for a reunion of marriage. Legal separation is not a prerequisite to divorce.