How to Separate in a Marriage

By Beverly Bird

Divorce isn't for everyone--at least not immediately. For any number of reasons, spouses might want to live separately for a while before taking the final step to officially terminate their marriage. Depending on where you live, there may be more than one way to do this. Some states recognize legal separations, but a few don't, including Texas, Delaware, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana. This doesn't mean you can't separate if you live in one of these states. It just means courts in these states will not issue a judgment of separation, so you'll have to create a separation agreement instead.

Divorce isn't for everyone--at least not immediately. For any number of reasons, spouses might want to live separately for a while before taking the final step to officially terminate their marriage. Depending on where you live, there may be more than one way to do this. Some states recognize legal separations, but a few don't, including Texas, Delaware, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana. This doesn't mean you can't separate if you live in one of these states. It just means courts in these states will not issue a judgment of separation, so you'll have to create a separation agreement instead.

If Your State Doesn't Recognize Legal Separation

Step 1

Negotiate a separation agreement with your spouse. Make sure you resolve all issues. If you have children, you'll need to address not only custody, but visitation and child support. Decide how you're going to divide both property and debts. Determine whether one of you will pay spousal support, or alimony, to the other. You should cover all the same issues you would have to address if you were divorcing instead.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Step 2

Draft your agreement in legal form. You can download a form from a legal document website or you can draft your own, incorporating everything you and your spouse agreed on.

Step 3

Sign your agreement in front of a notary. When you and your spouse both sign, it becomes a legally binding contract and you're officially separated. There's no need to file it with family court, unless or until you eventually want to file for divorce based on the same agreement.

If Your State Does Recognize Legal Separation

Step 1

Research your state's grounds and residency requirements for filing for legal separation. These can vary from state to state.

Step 2

Access a petition for legal separation that conforms to your state's laws. Many states offer family law forms on their judicial websites. If your state doesn't, call the court or download one from a reputable online legal document provider. Just make sure that what you download or purchase is intended for use in your state.

Step 3

Complete and file your petition. Typically, petitions for legal separation are filed in family court in the county where either you or your spouse reside.

Step 4

Serve your spouse with a copy of your petition. Different states have different rules for this, but you can usually ask your county sheriff to hand-deliver your petition to your spouse for you. After you've accomplished this, the steps toward legal separation are usually much the same as those for getting divorced. At the end of the litigation, a judge will rule on issues between you and your spouse and issue a separation judgment or decree of separation.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How Do I File for Legal Separation in Nebraska?

References

Related articles

A Summary of Types of Divorce

No matter why or how your marriage has ended, most states offer a divorce procedure to accommodate your circumstances, but trying to sort them out and decide which is right for you can be confusing. The terminology can vary from state to state, although the procedures are much the same and some terms are interchangeable.

How to File for Divorce in Kansas City, Missouri

Five counties are included in the 319 square miles that make up metropolitan Kansas City, Missouri. State laws govern all issues of divorce, including fault grounds, custody, visitation, child support, alimony and property division. However, the procedures to file for divorce vary slightly from county to county. Depending on the circumstances and which county you file in, you might have to file financial statements, separation agreements, parenting plans and proposed orders when you file your petition. If you hire an attorney, some of this information can be filed later. Whether you file on your own, hire an attorney or use an online document preparation service, the laws are the same in Kansas City as in the rest of the state.

How to File a No Fault Divorce Without a Lawyer

A no-fault divorce simply means that you are not accusing your spouse of doing anything wrong to end your marriage. It’s not the same as an uncontested divorce, in which your spouse offers no legal opposition to the proceedings. With a no-fault divorce, you’re simply giving him less to contest. He cannot argue your grounds, or the fact that you believe your marriage is over. He can only object to the way in which you've asked the court to end the marriage, such as how you'd like your property divided between the two of you.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

The Disadvantages of a Legal Separation

Ending your marriage is a highly personal endeavor. What worked for your friends when they broke up may not be the best ...

What Does Legal Separation Involve?

Legal separation can be difficult to understand because the same process isn't recognized in all states. In some ...

Arkansas Laws for Separation

Marital separation can be particularly complicated in Arkansas because the state recognizes two types of marriages and ...

Procedures for a Legal Separation & Divorce in Illinois

Illinois law recognizes legal separation, although not all states do. Legal separations are somewhat rare in the state, ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED