Documents required for Filing of the Legal Separation

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Legal separation is a legal provision for couples who neither wish to go for a divorce nor do they want to live together. However, this provision is not recognized in all the states of the USA. Overall, 44 states recognize legal separation; in the remaining six states, there are other provisions similar to legal separation which are nevertheless approved by the court. These six states are Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida, Mississippi, Texas and Georgia.

There are various documents required for the filing of the legal separation. These documents are the petition, the response, the appeal, the separation agreement and the final court decree approving the terms of the separation and declaring the couple as "legally separated" from being "married"; which implies that the couple is legally separated but they still remain husband and wife and cannot remarry unless they get a divorce.

Legal Separation Forms:

The couples who decide to opt for legal separation are required to fill the forms in order to apply for legal separation. These forms are usually available on the official websites of the states. One can download them and fill them as they are user-friendly. Some forms are in the form of "fill in the blanks" where the users have to just fill in the gaps with the relevant and necessary details.

There are many other websites than the official website where one can get free separation forms which can be downloaded and filled directly. However, one must exercise caution while doing this as these may not be authorized.

Hiring a professional attorney to guide one through the process of filing and appealing is a better idea if the lawyer is an expert in handling the family law cases. Legal separation is not encouraged in many states and many lawyers do not even do it. It is wise to check with the attorney whether he is experienced in these matters.

These forms are used when the separation is amicable and there are no conflicts regarding the marital issues such as childcare, support, property settlement and medical care.

Documents according to the Reasons for Legal Separation:

Each couple is unique and the reason for their seeking legal separation also can be unique. There are few reasons specified by the respective states on the basis of which a couple can demand legal separation.

Let us have a look at these general reasons or grounds for legal separation:

  • Imprisonment due to the Conviction of Felony for more than 3 years (2 in some states)
  • Abandonment or Willful Desertion shortly after marriage so that the spouses live separate or apart without cohabitation
  • Adultery committed during the marriage (extra-marital affairs or romantic liaisons)
  • Bigamous marriage to the current spouse without informing him or her of the previous marriage
  • Impotency constitutes refusal or inability to consummate the marital relationship
  • Habitual substance abuse (drugs, alcohol or medication)
  • Consanguinity is marriage within blood relations
  • Physical abuse such as hitting, bashing
  • Cruel and Inhuman Treatment such as denying sexual relationship, individual space etc.
  • Insanity
In the states which advocate no-fault divorce, the separation can be filed on the basis of "irreconcilable differences" and no proofs need to be submitted to the court. For all the above mentioned reasons it is necessary to submit the supporting documents, photographs, medical certificates, exhibits, etc. One needs to keep a record of all these documents and submit it as a proof to the court.

Legal Separation Agreement:

A legal separation agreement is the most important document of the legal separation documents. It is also known as marital separation agreement or property settlement agreement in various states. The separation agreement consists of all the provisions regarding the important marital issues which need to be settled in order for the couple to be able to lead separate lives with ease.

Usually, the court encourages the couple to hire an attorney, prepare a settlement agreement, get it notarized and signed by both the parties. After all this is done, the settlement agreement becomes valid and authorized.

In case of conflict regarding the property or other settlements, the court generally divides the property on an equitable basis or on the basis of individual property as is the policy of the concerned state.

A separation agreement covers following issues:

  • Child Custody and Visitation The decision regarding the custody of the minor children has to be taken before the couple files for legal separation. The earning capacity of both the parents, the capacity to provide the lifestyle before separation and other facilities should also be considered while deciding the guardianship rights. The non-custodial parent is entitled to visitation rights which should also be decided beforehand.
  • Support Payments The child as well as spousal support should be paid by the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse regardless of the custody of the children. In cases, where both the parents are earning, both are supposed to contribute for the childcare and other facilities related to children.
  • Property Division The decision regarding the real estate, the family home, other assets, investments, pension plans, retirement plans, insurance coverage, etc. should be decided by the couple so that the provisions can be done accordingly. The assets along with debts, responsibilities and possessions are distributed equitably.
  • Emergency Expenses Emergency health care services necessary for a life-threatening condition (if diagnosed later), overall medical care, accident insurance coverage should also be decided beforehand.
Final Court Order:

Legal separation is granted in the form of a court order. This court order usually mentions the date of separation, reasons or grounds on the basis of which separation is granted, the proofs and most importantly the settlement agreement.

One should preserve this court order so that it can be used as a guideline when one eventually decides to file for a divorce or it is required to be submitted to the court if the couple decides to reconcile.

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