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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 to file for a legal separation or to Find a Family Lawyer.



This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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