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.
Know Your Rights!
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
A separation agreement allows a husband and wife to agree on all of the same issues that would need to be decided upon divorce, including maintenance or alimony, division of marital property, child custody and child support. In most states a separation agreement must be entered into voluntarily, however, in some states a legal action can be taken in Court to obtain a separation. Although some states will enforce a verbal separation agreement, most states require that it be in writing and a few states require that the signatures be notarized for the agreement to be enforceable. In addition several states require the couple to actually separate (begin living apart) at the time, or just before, the separation agreement is created in order for it to be enforceable.
- 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
It is estimated that 1 in 2 marriages will end in divorce. While divorce is common among couples who can't seem to get along, many are choosing another alternative. This involves obtaining a legal separation. Although some states require a six months to one year separation before a divorce can be filed, some married couples do not seek a divorce, instead, they choose to live in separate homes while remaining marry. There are benefits to this approach. For starters, it allows room for possible reconciliation.
- USDOL - Division of Retirement Benefits
More than 46 million private wage and salary workers are currently covered by employer-provided retirement plans in the United States. For many of these Americans, retirement savings represent one of their most significant assets. For this reason, whether and how to divide a participant's interest in a retirement plan are often important considerations in separation, divorce, and other domestic relations proceedings. While the division of marital property generally is governed by state domestic relations law, any assignments of retirement interests must also comply with Federal law, namely the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the Code). Under ERISA and the Code, retirement interests may be assigned only if the judgment, decree, or order creating or recognizing a spouse's, former spouse's, child's, or other dependent's interest in an individual's retirement benefits constitutes a "qualified domestic relations order" or "QDRO."
Articles on HG.org Related to Separation Law
- Common Law Marriage and Legal Protection in TexasPersons who are married have certain legal rights and protections that they don't even think about. However, there are other couples who have long-term, committed relationships who have things a bit more difficult. This article will show the issues that should be considered by persons who are involved in a non-ceremonial marriage in Texas, and how to prevent a problem.
- What is Alienation of Affection?Divorces are commonly very messy affairs, with hurt feelings and concerns about the future leading former lovers to take very aggressive and hurtful actions against one another. But, when another person is involved, the matter can become even more heated, and in some jurisdictions the adulterer may actually face civil liability under a cause of action called alienation of affection.
- What Do You Do When Your Ex Kidnaps Your Kids?It is a nightmare scenario that occurs all too often: after a breakup or divorce, your ex picks up your kids when they are not supposed to or disappears with them after a visitation. Sometimes this is done to hurt the other parent, sometimes it is done out of a sincere desire to spend time with the child(ren). Whatever the case, the effect is the same: terror, confusion, concern, and often a nagging question about what one should do. So, what do you do when your ex kidnaps your kids?
- Uncontested Divorce in GeorgiaDivorce in Georgia is often though of by the public and by attorneys as being either “contested” or “uncontested”. The distinction being whether or not both of the parties have agreed to the dissolution of the marriage. This determines how the divorce proceedings will processed. Where the parties can agree to resolve their differences, the case can be handled on an uncontested basis. The legal proceedings will be simpler and less stressful. Attorney fees will be substantially lower.
- The Many Benefits of MediationThis article details the benefits of mediation versus a trial or hearing in a divorce or child custody dispute. Divorce and child custody disputes can be emotionally and financially draining. Mediation can help all parties involved settle disputes through a neutral party, a mediator, often at a lower cost with mutually beneficial results.
- Can I Get Alimony After My Divorce is Final?Sometimes, after a divorce has been finalized and a court has issued its final judgment or decree declaring the marriage severed, one of the spouses finds that they need spousal support. Perhaps the divorce was entered into too hastily or while the spouse was under duress, perhaps the circumstances have changed for the spouse. Whatever the case, in some instances it is necessary to re-open the question of alimony after the divorce has been finalized.
- Marriage Loses Its Draw for the Working Class: StudyA recent study of marriage among those with and without a college education revealed that marriage is often postponed for those in the working class who don’t have a college degree.
- What is the Difference Between Adoption and Guardianship?When accepting responsibility for the welfare of a child, there are many difficult questions to consider. But one that often confuses people is the difference between adoption and guardianship. Does one have to adopt a child in order to act like a parent and be responsible for the child, or is there a simpler way?
- A Divorce Lawyer's Practical Tips on Minimizing the Effects of Divorce on Kids!It is undisputed that divorce has long-term effects on children, such as depression, trust issues, social difficulties and anxiety. When divorce is necessary, it is important to pay very close attention to how the divorce is affecting the children.
- How Effective Is Mediation in Child Custody Disputes?Disputes over child custody can be among the most heated. After all, the stakes are incredibly high when the issue of being able to see your own children is on the line. As a result, it may seem like the prospect of ever reaching an agreement with your child's other parent is highly unlikely, but mediation can often lead to surprisingly positive results.
- 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.