In a legal separation, the parties remain married (whereas in divorce, the marriage ends). Legal separation is a court order that mandates the rights and duties of a couple while they are still married, but living apart. Legal separation is not common, but many couples who do not believe in divorce for cultural or religious reasons may choose this route. During legal separation, the court decides child custody and visitation, property division, and separation maintenance.
A trial separation is a period of time during which spouses live apart to decide whether or not to continue the marriage. It does not have any legal effect. Whereas during a legal separation, the parties are ordered by a court to fulfill certain property divisions and duties.
Permanent separation probably does not have any legal effect (until several years down the road when the couple decides to file for divorce and the court is trying to determine when the couple began acquiring separate assets). This term only refers to a situation in which a couple decides to remain separated and not live together again. Legal separation is filed with the court and trial or permanent separation is not.
In some cases, couples may agree on nearly everything associated with the legal separation process. This may result in one or both parties determining they do not need to seek the advice of a family lawyer to guide them through the process. However, it can be helpful to have an attorney review their agreements prior to signing them. Bender Law is more than happy to review your agreements to ensure your rights are protected and help you determine if representing yourself is a good idea.