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

  • Role of Child’s Preference in a Child Custody Case
    A child’s preference in a custody case may have no effect, or it may have a direct effect on the ultimate outcome of the custody case. Parents often make decisions related to child custody by their own agreement and may consider their child’s opinion in a manner they deem appropriate. However, if the parents do not agree on this information, a judge makes the decision.
  • What is the Difference between Legal and Physical Separation?
    Legal and physical separation are two distinct concepts that are largely unrelated to each other. A person can be physically separated from his or her spouse without being legally separated. Some states even allow a couple to be legally separated without being physically separated. Knowing which classification a person is under is important in being aware of his or her rights.
  • The Downside of Divorce Lawyers Who Are Too Aggressive
    It is a common situation during divorce for one or both spouses to run out and try to get the most aggressive lawyer with a pit bull reputation. Aggressive lawyers may sometimes be able to bring about positive results during the process of divorce. However, those who are not led by their clients’ best interests may actually do more harm than good. Some of the downsides of using an overly aggressive lawyer include:
  • Buyout Your Ex
    You’re in the middle of a divorce and you want to stay in your home. You and your spouse both feel the stability will be good for the children. While it may give your children stability, it may just put you in the poor house.
  • Key Distinctions between Legal Separation and Divorce
    Many of the processes involved in divorce are also used for separations. However, there are distinct differences between a legal separation and divorce. Furthermore, some states do not recognize a legal separation, causing the classification to be merely married or divorced, even if spouses are physically separated.
  • Vetting a Family Law Lawyer Before Signing on the Dotted Line
    It can be difficult to know where to turn when you are facing the prospect of divorce or other contested family law case. Many individuals do not have an existing relationship with a lawyer and do not know where to begin. Finding the right divorce lawyer is critical to having a successful divorce. Some ways to vet the right lawyer include:
  • Expert Witness: What Does a Child Custody Expert Witness Do?
    Child custody cases are often plagued with complications, arguments and conflict on both sides. When both parties vie for the custody of the child or children affected by the dissolution of the relationship, both family lawyers and expert witnesses are usually needed to settle the disputes.
  • How Divorce Lawyer Fees and Costs Are Structured and How to Pay for Them
    Divorce lawyer fees and costs can come as a surprise to someone who was not anticipating a divorce. However, it is important for anyone going through a divorce to have a clear understanding how legal fees and costs are structured and to consider ways to pay for them. The fee structure can have a significant impact on the amount that a client pays.
  • How to Prove a Spouse Lied on Asset and Debt Disclosures
    During a divorce, spouses are typically required to disclose particular information about their assets, income and debts. This is so that the spouses can make informed decisions during the divorce and so the eventual settlement or order incorporates information about all known factors.
  • What Does Texas’s Community Property Law Mean for Your Divorce?
    Under Texas law, most assets that either spouse acquires during a marriage will be deemed community property when the spouses divorce. If you are preparing to end your marriage, here are some key facts to know about protecting your interest in community and separate property.



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