Separation Law




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

  • How Can I Get Divorced in One State When My Spouse Lives in Another State?
    Getting a divorce becomes more complicated when spouses no longer live in the same state. In some situations, a spouse has moved to another state right after the couple recently separated. In other cases, the spouses have continued separate lives in different states for several years. Even if spouses live in different states, they can still get divorced.
  • Can I Get a Divorce in One State if My Spouse Is in Another State?
    Yes, but the amount of relief that you can receive may be limited by the circumstances of your case. Courts may not be able to make valid decisions pertaining to certain aspects of the divorce, depending on the location of the subject matter and jurisdictional issues.
  • The Divorce Process: Decide or Have the Decision Made for You
    Decide or have the decision made for you. This phrase applies to pretty much everything in the area of family law. You can’t make any decisions for anyone else, but you can decide how you’re going to approach these challenges. If you don’t decide how you’re going to approach these difficulties, the decision will be made for you.
  • Surviving During the Holidays in a Divorce or Legal Separation
    In Illinois, there are parents with physical custody of the children, often referred to as residential custody, and there are non-residential custodial parents with visitation rights. In any divorce in which the parties are parents, often, divorce lawyers will tell you that the primary issue is often the division of visitation time with the kids. The most sought after parenting time is during the holidays when families are expected to be together and the kids are not in school.
  • What Are My Rights Under Community Property Distribution?
    While the majority of states require that assets be distributed in an equitable division upon divorce, community property states view all property that was accumulated during the marriage to be the equal property of both spouses.
  • Divorce in Texas
    When you are considering a divorce, much less going through the process, it can be the absolute most difficult time in your life. That is why it is so important to know what your options are and to come up with a plan based on the advice of an experienced attorney.
  • Business Valuation in Connecticut Divorce
    When a previously married couple files for divorce, their property must be equitably distributed between the former spouses. Usually, the courts will follow what is known as an equitable distribution model to ensure fairness to both parties.
  • New Illinois Maintenance Law
    In every Illinois divorce, the family law court decides whether one spouse must pay maintenance, commonly referred to as spousal support, to the other side.
  • Understanding the Routes to Different Child Custody Situations in California
    The Child Custody and Visitation Process in California. Divorcing parents in California control their own future when deciding child custody arrangements. That is if they are amicable and can come to an agreement.
  • What Property am I Entitled to in an Equitable Distribution State?
    Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin use a community property distribution scheme to divide marital property. Alaska recognizes the community property scheme if the spouses agree to the arrangement. All other states use equitable distribution.
  • 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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