Can You Be Legally Separated and Live in the Same Home?

By Beverly Bird

Legal separation is one of those terms in divorce law that varies from state to state. It may mean that you filed a complaint with the court and received a separation decree, which you can do in a few states, such as Ohio. But not all states provide for this kind of legal process. For example, in New Jersey, you can simply negotiate and sign a settlement agreement with your spouse.

Legal separation is one of those terms in divorce law that varies from state to state. It may mean that you filed a complaint with the court and received a separation decree, which you can do in a few states, such as Ohio. But not all states provide for this kind of legal process. For example, in New Jersey, you can simply negotiate and sign a settlement agreement with your spouse.

Legal Separation

There's usually nothing stopping you from filing a complaint for separation even if your spouse is still living with you. Living together might defeat the purpose of filing, however. A separation judgment or decree defines the terms by which you'll live apart. The same applies to marital settlement agreements. If you're living together, custody probably isn't an issue yet -- and you may not have to deal with financial issues yet either. Legal separation in any form typically paves the way for you and your spouse to live apart.

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Separation as Grounds

If you and your spouse are separating to establish grounds for divorce, this may change the picture. In some no-fault states, such as North Carolina, spouses must live in two different homes for a full year before they can file for divorce. The state doesn't recognize fault grounds such as adultery or cruelty. In other states, such as Maryland, you have a choice: You can file for divorce on fault grounds, or you can live separately – in two different homes – for a year. Illinois offers similar options, but spouses may be considered separated even if they continue to reside in one dwelling.

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What Does Legal Separation Involve?

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How Many Days Apart Equals a Legal Separation?

Legal separation is not typically defined by the amount of time you and your spouse live apart. In many cases, it depends on whether an agreement or a court order is in place that governs the terms of your separation. State laws vary, and you may be legally separated when an agreement or court order exists, even if neither of you has moved out of the marital home yet.

Arkansas Laws for Separation

Marital separation can be particularly complicated in Arkansas because the state recognizes two types of marriages and three kinds of legal separation. Sorting through all the laws and rules pertaining to each can be daunting, but the method of separation you choose comes down to a few basics: your personal preferences, your ability to negotiate and how you got married.

Illinois No-Fault Divorce Laws

Most Illinois couples who decide to part ways use the state’s irreconcilable differences ground for divorce. Although this is not technically a no-fault rule, it is the closest thing to it that Illinois offers. If you file divorce papers on grounds of irreconcilable differences, you don’t have to accuse your spouse of fault or of doing anything wrong in order to obtain a legal end to your marriage.

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