Divorce vs. Legal Separation

Many churches feel that legal separation is a good solution for an abused wife or husband because it fits their beliefs about Christians and divorce. But here are a few concerns:

1) Legal separation is not available in 6 states in the U.S. (they don't offer legal separation as an option). As of the writing of this blog post, those states are Pennsylvania, Texas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi.

2) In some states, legal separation doesn't protect you from financial abuse as well as a divorce does. You may end up with the other person's debts, including medical debts, lawsuits, etc. However, in some states, a legal separation may still allow you to stay on the other person's health insurance. Consult with an attorney.

3) What do you do if the other person is dangerous and never improves? Are you legally bound to a destructive person forever, especially a person who want to take revenge on you for separating? That seems to punish the abused spouse more than the one who abuses.

4) If Scripture says a person who doesn't care for their family is "worse than an unbeliever," then how can churches forbid divorce for abuse? It's essentially "abandonment by an unbeliever." The verse also said that such a person has "denied the faith," and for some churches that alone is ground for excommunication.

5) Emotional abuse is as bad as physical abuse and infidelity and abandonment. I often hear emotional abuse victims say, "If only he would hit me or cheat on me! Then I could get free with the church's blessing!" That speaks to the desperation of the situation and bondage to someone who does not care about your wellbeing. And there are plenty of Bible passages that tell us to oust people who behave this way from our churches; how much more at 24/7 marriage?

6) Jesus healed on the Sabbath in Luke 13. He released a woman bound by a disabling spirit (an evil spirit), in defiance of the synagogue ruler's Sabbath adherences. Jesus denounced the leader publicly, saying "you treat animals better than that." In the same way, wouldn't Jesus place the safety and well-being of an abused spouse over marriage?

7) In some states if the couple changes their mind, it's faster and less expensive to remarry after a divorce than it is to untangle a legal separation. It also saves money, because you don't have to pay for both a legal separation and a divorce, each of which involve different processes.

Note: #1 and #7 are from an interview with a Christian divorce attorney. You'll find a discussion of this in my book, The Life-Saving Divorce, on pp. 278-279. I am not an attorney, and this is not legal advice. And it's important to consult with an attorney in your state, because every state is different.


What's a Life-Saving Divorce? A Life-Saving Divorce is a divorce for the serious reasons: a pattern of chronic emotional abuse, infidelity, domestic violence, sexual immorality, felony behavior, neglect, substance abuse, etc.


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  • Another woman's story, Stephanie's, is told in 6 parts on Pastor Jeff Crippen's anti-abuse blog UnholyCharade.com.  Pastor Crippen talks about the evil the church has done to her and gives churches a better way to handle these situations, complete with biblical rationale.
    Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6
  • Chapter 8 of my book, The Life-Saving Divorce, is about how to find safe friends and a safe church.

For more on the myths of divorce, buy the Life-Saving Divorce.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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