A legal separation is a court order that sets out the rights and responsibilities (financial, custodial, etc.) of married spouses when they wish to lead separate lives. While all other issues of the marriage are settled in the Separation Agreement, the separated couple remains legally married. While separation is often the first step toward a divorce and can set precedents for the divorce, it is not the same thing, nor does it necessarily have to culminate in divorce.

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Couples may wish to file for a legal separation for a variety of reasons, for example:

  • to determine temporary financial and custodial arrangements for the family before filing for divorce.
  • as an alternative to divorce, if there are religious/moral objections to divorce and the parties intend to be permanently legally separated.
  • as a cooling-off period, during which the couple has the option to reconcile.?

In some states a period of legal separation is required before the couple can get a divorce, while in other states separation is merely another marker of eligibility for divorce. The period of legal separation before divorce can last up to two years, or it can be waived as soon as 6 months if both parties agree to waive the separation requirement. Check with your state to determine whether you need to file for separation before divorce for an extended period.

To file for a legal separation:

  • Decide whether you need a lawyer.
  • Meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.
  • Determine child custody and support, visitation rights, spousal alimony and division of property, assets and debt. You will need to have all your financial information available when drawing up this part of the separation agreement, such as monthly bank statements, credit reports, or loan agreements.
  • Have the separation agreement notarized with the signatures of both parties.

You can use RocketLawyer.com to file for a legal separation or to Find a Family Lawyer.

Get started Start Your Marriage Separation Agreement Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Marriage Separation Agreement Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.