Legal Separation

U.S. Divorce Law Center





Legal Separation Laws in the U.S. Copyright HG.org

Legal Separation

A legal separation and a physical separation are not the same thing. In a physical separation, although the couple lives separately, there is no formal legal agreement.

A legal separation allows a husband and wife to live separately and formalize the arrangement by a court order or a written agreement. The arrangement addresses spousal support, and child custody, visitation and support, when relevant.

It is not equivalent to a divorce or dissolution and recognizes the possibility that the couple may reunite. It does not terminate a marriage, and so, does not allow the parties to remarry.

It is not necessary to be legally separated before obtaining a divorce. Although, most states have provisions for legally separated couples to commute their separation agreement to a divorce action, should they decide to do so.

Not all states recognize legal separations.

Legal Separation Laws by State

Laws governing Legal Separation vary from state to state and some states do not recognize it. The following links provide general overviews of individual states' legal separation laws, where applicable.

Legal Separation Law Articles

  • Grandparents’ Rights
    A common question when determining custody of children is whether, and to what extent, grandparents have a claim to custody, visitation, and guardianship of children. It can be difficult to make important decisions regarding custody or guardianship of a child when the family is at odds.
  • Equitable Distribution for Pre-Marital Co-Habitation
    Worldwide people are marrying later and the United States is no exception. In 2015 the average age for marriage was 28, and in 2014 barely half of all Americans were married. With many millennials waiting until their thirties to say “I do,” longer co-habitation periods are becoming the norm for couples.
  • Forensic Accounting and Divorce
    During a divorce proceeding, some of the most contentious issues arise out of financial disputes. When the marital estate is sizable and one spouse has always been in charge of a couple’s finances, it may be worth hiring a forensic accountant to aid in determining the value of assets in a divorce.
  • California Enforcement of Child Support Orders from Other States
    California draws many of its residents from other states. Many people who move into the state are divorced and are receiving or are paying child support.
  • What Are the Benefits of Legal Separation
    For many, legal separations simply sounds like a different way of saying divorce.
  • When One Spouse Takes Advantage of Alimony
    Alimony is usually determined through a number of factors when the couple has dissolved the relationship legally. The funds that are garnered to the other spouse usually increase or decrease based on the ability of the person’s pay and assets.
  • What is Domicile in Divorce Cases and Why Does it Matter?
    Residency of where a spouse moves to after the couple have split is important when it affects a divorce case. Some states require the individual to remain in the same state for the duration of the divorce proceedings before he or she is permitted to vacate to a better suited location.
  • Special Considerations in Divorce Cases Involving Domestic Abuse
    Domestic abuse is rampant in the country, and it often goes unchecked because the spouse does not usually contact law enforcement or legal channels to assist with the problem. However, when someone is seeking a divorce on the grounds of domestic violence, there are often special considerations that may be applied to the claim.
  • The Need for Mediation in Divorce Proceedings
    Divorce is often a very painful and emotional time. Family law cases are some of the most contentious in existence. However, not all divorce cases must be bitter and problematic. Mediation helps bridge the gap between parties and offers them the ability to split in an amicable fashion.
  • As a Father, What Are My Parental Rights?
    Most fathers are unaware of what rights they have. This may be due to variations based on the state where they reside, but in certain instances, different professionals have differing answers. In most situations, the rights a father has are the same as the mother.



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