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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  • Question and Answer: Liability of Debts
    Question: My wife and I are not currently living together. Is my wife legally responsible for the bills? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, namely the state laws where you live and whether there are any agreements pertaining to debts accumulated during the marriage.
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  • All Family Law Articles

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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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