Many people may think that if a married couple gets "separated" that they are no longer married. But actually, a legal separation still means that the couple is married -- they are just under court order to provide certain duties under their still-intact marriage. Often times, the separated couple will live apart during their separation.
A legal separation can be a very helpful tool for a married couple that has suddenly found themselves questioning their relationship. The separation could be done on a trial basis, meaning that the couple takes a few months to live apart to see how it impacts their relationship. It could show them that they actually still want to stay together, or it could affirm what they thought: that it is time to file for them to end their marriage.
This could be done by filing for a permanent separation, or they could file for divorce. In either scenario, the marriage would legally end. Permanent separation inherently leads to divorce.
How property and debt division are handled depends on the couple and the situation. State laws vary and every couple is different, and, of course, it maters if the couple is deciding to permanently separate or divorce.
No matter who you are or what you and your spouse bring to the table in a divorce, you should consult with an experienced attorney to help you through the process. There are so many intricacies and unique scenarios that can arise that it will be beneficial to have an attorney in your corner during the divorce.
Source: FindLaw, "Legal Separation vs. Divorce," Accessed Sept. 2, 2015