Separation Law


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Separation Law falls under family law and overlaps with divorce law. It deals with the procedures, rules and laws the parties to a marriage must follow when they no longer wish to live together as a married couple, but do not wish to seek a divorce or dissolution of the marriage at that time.

These laws vary by jurisdiction and not all states recognize legal separation. Those that do, allow the parties to the marriage to enter into legal agreements which address issues such as property division; assignment of assets, finances and debts; alimony or spousal support; child custody and child support. These agreements are recognized by a judicial body and are enforceable by law.

Grounds for obtaining a legal separation are often the same or very similar to those needed in that state to obtain a divorce. Some states refer to their form of legal separation as a limited divorce, and others as divorce from bed and board. In many instances, if the couple later seeks dissolution of marriage, the written agreement established for their legal separation may be converted or commuted to a divorce settlement.

In states that do not recognize legal separations, the methods of handling these issues may vary greatly. Some states still allow the spouses to enter into a written agreement addressing some or all of these issues, whereas others only allow this provision while a divorce between the spouses is pending. It is important to familiarize oneself with his/her state’s specific laws on this issue before proceeding. Currently, the following nine states do not recognize legal separations: Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Louisiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Idaho and Delaware.

For more information about individual separation laws, procedures and related topics for U.S. states, please visit our U.S. Divorce Law Center.

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Articles on HG.org Related to Separation Law

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  • Funding Your Child’s College Education After a Connecticut Divorce
    When a divorce is pending, there are many social, financial, and legal obstacles to attend to that it is regrettably easy for the issue of funding your child’s college education to slip through the cracks. Particularly when parents with younger children are seeking divorce, spouses and their attorneys tend to focus on immediately pressing issues such as child custody and visitation, division of marital property, and alimony.
  • Are Disparaging Social Media Remarks by an Ex Protected by the First Amendment?
    In 2010, Steve Nash, a basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, filed for dissolution of his marriage to Alejandra Nash. Nash v. Nash, 307 P.3d 40 (Az. Ct. App. 2013). The parties were able to the resolve custody and parenting time with their two young children through a joint agreement, but the matter went to trial on the issue of child support. On the day the trial court issued its decree, Mrs. Nash “tweeted” several disparaging remarks pertaining to Mr. Nash.
  • The Difference Between Separation and Divorce
    If a married couple decides to call it quits and, thus, end the marriage, a divorce is almost always the initial inclination. However, some professionals advise against jumping into a divorce for a number of reasons, one of which is the immense financial liability.
  • 4 Common Misconceptions About Child Support After Divorce
    We’ve all heard of child support: an ongoing, periodic payment made by the noncustodial parent following the end of marriage. In fact, even in “joint custody” cases, there’s still a custodial parent—who the child spends more time with—and a noncustodial parent, and child support must be transferred. An exception to this would be if both parents earn the same income, pay equal amounts of expenses for the child and have the child the same number of days.
  • Depositions: A Metal Detector in a Landmine Field
    Parties often question the necessity of a deposition in a contested family law case. Versus allowing their attorney to take a necessary deposition, parties often dismiss the idea as a cost savings move or in the blind hope that their case will settle. This is a common mistake for parties who will undergo a trial or contested hearing in their family law matter.
  • How Leased Vehicles Are Valued in the Marital Estate
    When your marital estate is divided, vehicles purchased under lease agreements require special consideration.
  • Dealing With Debt During Divorce
    While some couples may fight over assets, a family law attorney can explain that other couples may have the most contention over debt.
  • Avoid A "Bar Fight Mentality" In Your Family Law Case
    Parties going through a divorce often have the viewpoint that it is helpful to be aggressive, confrontational and hostile in their family law case. By being a bully, or acting angry, they wrongly conclude that this will lend to a positive result in their family law case.
  • All Family Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Family Law including: adoption, alimony, child support and custody, child visitation, collaborative law, divorce, domestic violence, elder law, juvenile crime, juvenile law, juvenile probation, paternity, pre-nuptial agreement, separation.

Separation Law - US

  • Divorce and Separation - Overview

    A divorce formally dissolves a legal marriage. While married couples do not possess a constitutional or legal right to divorce, states permit divorces because to do so best serves public policy. To ensure that a particular divorce serves public policy interests, some states require a "cooling-off period," which prescribes a time period after legal separation that spouses must bear before they can initiate divorce proceedings.

  • Grounds for Legal Separation

    Knowing the grounds for legal separation will help you prepare your case so you can quickly get the paperwork completed and start the process towards divorce. While not all of the following reasons for legal separation are valid in all states, it will help you start thinking about your defense.

  • Legal Separation - Definition

    a court-decreed right to live apart, with the rights and obligations of divorced persons, but without divorce. The parties are still married and cannot remarry.

  • Separation Agreements

    FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) about separation agreements. If you are getting a divorce you will most likley find yourself signing a Separation or Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). It is very important that you understand exactly what you are agreeing to before signing your agreement.

  • Understanding Legal Separation

    A legal separation is a written agreement that is filed with the court which addresses the rights and responsibilities of a married couple while they are living apart. Issues that can be addressed in a separation agreement include division of assets and debts, child custody and support, visitation schedules, alimony, etc.

Organizations Related to Separation Law

  • American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

    The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers was founded in 1962, by highly regarded domestic relations attorneys “To provide leadership that promotes the highest degree of professionalism and excellence in the practice of family law.” There are currently more than 1600 Fellows in 50 states. The Academy Fellows are highly skilled negotiators and litigators who represent individuals in all facets of family law. These areas include divorce, annulment, prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, marital settlement agreements, child custody and visitation, business valuations, property valuations and division, alimony, child support and other family law issues.

  • Association of Family and Conciliation Courts

    AFCC is the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts - an interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflict.

  • International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC).

    IAMFC is an organization that promotes excellence in the practice of couples and family counseling by creating and disseminating first-class publications and media products, providing a forum for exploration of family-related issues, involving a diverse group of dedicated professionals in our activities, and emphasizing collaborative efforts.

Publications Related to Separation Law

  • Filing for Legal Marriage Separation - Tips

    Now that you’ve decided to legally separate from your spouse you need to take the first step and file for a legal separation. Before doing anything make sure you fully understand that a legal separation is a binding, legal contract that is just as important as a divorce.


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