There are many reasons why you may choose to file for legal separation rather than getting divorced. For example:
One or both of you may hope to reconcile in the near future;
One of you may rely on the other for health insurance;
One spouse might like to stay married in order to qualify for Social Security or military benefits on the other’s account; or
For religious reasons.
However, before you file for legal separation, one should understand what legal separation is.
When it comes to a married couple making the decision to file for legal separation, it is important to distinguish marital separation from legal separation.
What is a legal separation?
Legal separation is an arrangement that does not end the marriage but allows the partners to live separately with legal written agreements on children, finances, pets, etc.
Regardless of why you want to file for legal separation, most states will require you to do more than simply live apart. To be legally separated in most states, you must go through a process very similar to a divorce and which involves the same issues, namely:
There is no law that requires a married couple to live together.
Thus, if they choose to file for legal separation, there are no restrictions for the legal separation process. That said, they are still legally married and must consider how they will address such matters as property, debts, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and bills.
Following are the 7 steps to file for legal separation:
Know your state’s residency requirements
You must be aware of your state’s divorce laws to know about your state’s residency requirements. For example, in certain states, at least one of the partners should reside in the state for the filing for separation.
Hence, the rules are different for different states.
File separation papers:
You begin to file for legal separation with your local family court requesting the separation and proposing the terms. Your proposal should address child custody, visitation, alimony, child support, and the division of marital property and debts during a separation agreement.
Serve your spouse with legal separation papers
Unless you and your spouse file for separation jointly, they will need to be served with the legal separation documents or separation papers to become legally separated.
Your spouse responds
Once served, your spouse is allowed a certain amount of time to respond and let you and the court know if they agree or disagree with your proposal.
Settlement of issues
If your spouse responds affirmatively, you can move to the next step. However, your spouse can file a counter-petition if they have certain issues from signing the legal separation forms.
This is when mediation or collaborative law will come into the scene.
Once your spouse has responded to your proposal and the two of you are in agreement on the terms of your separation, the marriage separation agreement must be put into writing, signed by both of you, and filed with the court.
If your spouse does not agree with the terms of your proposal, you can try to reach an agreement on any contested issues of fact through negotiation or mediation. If you cannot come to an agreement, your case must go to court in order to be settled by a judge.
The judge signs your separation judgment
Once you have come to a mutual agreement on any contested issues of fact, or a judge has decided them, the judge will sign your separation agreement, and you will be legally separated. However, you will still be married and thus will not be able to remarry.
It is important to understand that every legal separation is different, but that the above information is a general overview of the process to file for legal separation.
The information presented above is a general outline of the steps required to file for legal separation across the country. However, the laws that govern marriage, divorce, and separation vary from state to state.
Therefore, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced legal separation attorney in the state in which you live to ensure that you are taking the appropriate steps to legal separation in your state.
In the video below, Myles Munroe discusses how to recover from divorce or separation. He shares that it is important to get one’s emotions, perspective, and emotions back.
It is natural to go through the dramatic experience of denial and grief but one must learn to overcome them.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.