It's a legalized way to live separately, but remain married. Most states allow legal separations but you rarely hear about them.
Please don't think that simply moving out is the solution... in that case, you are still legally responsible for your financial liabilities.
Instead, if you have a court approved legal separation, you can both live separate lives, with all financial issues being court ordered, separating your assets completely.
Usually for financial reasons as the Legal Separation Papers would set the stage for your separated lives:
If you have to pay alimony (spousal support), under a legal separation those payments can be a tax deduction.
f you have joint checking or savings accounts, the legal separation will advise how those accounts are accessed. It can also end any joint accounts, so that both parties are on their own banking accounts which is probably advisable.
A legal separation protects both parties from debt incurred by the other party. If you simply move out, you will still be responsible legally for the debt your spouse ends up with... yikes!
If your legal separation allows, you can maintain health care through an employer since you aren't totally divorced.
if a retiree divorced but wanted to maintain employer-paid health care
for the spouse? They do a legal separation and both have health care.
This is a huge reason for a legal separation agreement, especially if the spouse really needs health care insurances. If the spouse has a serious illness, sometimes that results in divorce (yes, sad, but it happens).
Instead, maybe the ex-spouse would agree to a legal separation, all finances and household belongings are completely separate and lives are separated -- but the spouse gets continued health care.
If finances are really tight after a divorce/legal separation, imagine paying for your spouses COBRA coverage if the court orders it -- or worst yet, the medical bills.
There are many sources of legal forms on the internet - be sure you find a provider with separate forms for each state. If you are doing a legal separation without any hassles, this might be the way to go.