How to File for Legal Separation

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If a couple has come to a decision that they cannot live together as a husband and wife or if they want to take a break from the marital relationship, legal separation is an ideal option for such couples. The rules and requirements for legal separation change from state to state. Also, there are other factors determining whether the separation will be granted to the couple need to be taken into the consideration.

The first step is to determine whether one wants to go for divorce or legal separation. The only difference is that after the divorce is granted, the marital ties are severed completely and the couple can remarry. However, after a legal separation is granted, the status of the couple changes from 'married' to 'legally separated'. They remain legally married and cannot remarry unless they file for a divorce.

Before filing for legal separation, it is important to ensure that you have made a thorough decision. . In most of the states, legal separation is a pre-requisite for divorce and it cannot be revoked. It is not considered as a break from each other but a long lasting agreement. However in some of the states, reconciliation always remains an option and legal separation is mostly considered as a trial separation.

A legal separation is a legally binding contract and is as important as a divorce decree. Many states do not recognize the documentation for legal separation. If you are a resident of such a state, you need to prepare a settlement agreement with the help of a professional attorney, get it notarized and signed by both the parties. This agreement has to be submitted to the court and then it becomes legally binding on both the parties until one of them decides to file for divorce or in case of some states, decide to reconcile.

How to File for Legal Separation?

There are some generic steps which apply when one decides to file for legal separation. However, it is necessary to check with the local authorities when filing the petition in a particular state. The steps of filing for legal separation are as follows:

  • It is necessary to meet residency requirements of the particular state in which you are planning to file for legal separation. The residency requirement changes from state to state and it needs to be qualified for.
  • After the residency requirement is met, the petition for legal separation has to be filed in the county court where at least one of the parties is residing.
  • The respondent has to be served with the notice for legal separation.
  • The respondent can respond to the petition by sending an answer or by counter-filing for divorce.
  • After the response is received, you need to prepare a settlement agreement sorting all the marital issues such as guardianship, support (child and spousal), division of marital assets and debts, residency, bill payments and the time period of separation.
  • The separation or settlement agreement has to be prepared mutually and submitted to the court. The court then approves it and it is legally enforceable until one of the parties decides to file for divorce or the parties reconcile.
It is important to note that not every state recognizes legal separation. If you are a resident of a state which does not recognize the provision of legal separation; it is very important to concentrate on preparing the settlement agreement which could be the only document proving that you are indeed separated from your partner.

The partners remain legally married but cannot indulge in sexual relations as well as cannot socialize as husband and wife after the separation is granted. Neither is the couple allowed to remarry unless they get a divorce.

Legal Separation Agreement:

A legal separation agreement is known by various names such as settlement agreement, property settlement agreement or separation agreement. It deals with all the above mentioned marital issues regarding child custody, visitation, support, health care, property settlement and other important issues.

In almost all the states, the settlement agreement is considered as a blueprint for the divorce settlement if the couple eventually decides to go for it. It is important to prepare a settlement agreement as it forms the core of the vital issues in a couple's life.

Reasons of Opting for Legal Separation:

The number of couples opting for legal separation instead of divorce is on the rise. There are few reasons why people opt legal separation as opposed to divorce. These reasons are as follows:

  • Social Reasons There are various social reasons why couples opt for legal separation; main reason being that there is no social stigma. People don't immediately become aware of the couple's separation which helps them avoid awkward questions and situations. Besides, there are various social benefits of being recognized as one's husband or wife.
  • Religious Reasons Some religions frown upon divorce while others outright despise the decision to get divorced. Such couples who do not want to be each other's partner, but their religion does not permit them to divorce, usually opt for legal separation.
  • Financial Reasons A legally separated couple can be financially benefited from each other's investments and financial plans such as insurance coverage, tax exemptions, inheritance etc.
These reasons draw many of the couples to opt for legal separation when it comes to decide about this serious issue in their life.

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