What is the difference between an absolute and limited divorce?

When it comes to divorce, spouses have two options to choose from: they can pursue either absolute or limited divorce. To understand what option suits you the best, it is important to understand the difference between them first.

What is an Absolute Divorce?

In other words, it is a formal dissolution of a marriage. Married people can get an absolute divorce meaning that they will be divorced on paper and able to date or even remarry someone new. And the arrangements made by the parties regarding child custody, spousal support, and other issues during divorce proceedings usually are permanent. However, no one can rule out the possibility of the court revising those agreements if there are new circumstances at any time in the future.

For spouses to qualify for this type of separation, there must be legal grounds for it as defined by the family laws established in the state where they are going to file. For example, in most states, partners must live apart for at least one year before they can go their separate ways. Other legal grounds for divorce usually include infidelity, cruel treatment, abandonment, and imprisonment. If none of the mentioned criteria are met, spouses must pursue a limited divorce first, though the latter one mustn’t necessarily be followed by an absolute divorce. But what is the difference between divorce and absolute divorce?

What is a Limited Divorce?

When it comes to limited divorce definition, one can say that it is usually referred to as a legal separation that, however, has nothing to do with the termination of marital relationships. Since it doesn’t end marital relationships, nor does it allow parties to enter into another marriage or even start dating someone new, spouses remain married. This probably is the main difference between these two types of divorce.

 It is usually pursued when a couple needs a mandated separation before they can get divorced on paper. In this case, the court will dictate who will stay in the family home, who will get custody of the kids, who will pay spousal support, and so forth. It is also worth mentioning that the made arrangements are temporary. Since separated parties are technically married, remarriage is impossible. Moreover, if one of the sides starts seeing someone new, it is usually considered infidelity, which is one of many legal grounds for divorce.

A legal separation is possible in one of the following cases:

  • One of the spouses deserts his or her partner;
  • Spouses haven’t been either living together or sexually involved with each other for less than a year;
  • One of the parents abused their kids;
  • One of the parties abused another party.

Once at least one of the above-mentioned criteria is met, spouses can get legally separated. When a limited divorce is ordered:

  • Neither party is allowed to remarry;
  • Temporary decisions regarding child custody, spousal support, and property can be made;
  • Spouses can remain separated for an unlimited time;
  • The court may revoke the order if spouses decide to get back together; 

When one pursues a limited divorce, issues related to child support, custody, asset division, and health insurance coverage are to be resolved. When legally separated, spouses live apart, although they remain married on paper. This means that:

  • Even though they are married, they are not allowed to have sex with one another;
  • Dating a third party is considered adultery;
  • In case one spouse dies, another party inherits marital property;
  • Unless a judge decides otherwise, the form of ownership for any piece of property that spouses own as a couple remains unchanged.

So, if your marriage is found on the rocks but you and your spouse don’t feel like ending your relationship, you probably should get legally separated to be able either to get back together any time in the future or untie the knot in one year for good. However, if you and your partner are convinced that your marriage is irretrievably broken or if one of you is at fault, then you should pursue an absolute divorce.