Legal Separation Rule

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There are no hard and fast legal separation rules. However, one must consider some things when one decides to opt for a legal separation instead of a divorce. Apart from some minor differences according to the statutes of different states, the legal separation rules are almost same in each state.

Legal Separation Rules:

Let us have a look at some generic considerations or the rules of legal separation which are common to all the states and form the core of the provision of the term of legal separation.

These rules for legal separation are as follows:

  1. Mutual Agreement between the Couple
    For a couple to obtain a legal separation, it is necessary to reach to a mutual decision regarding the attainment of legal separation in lieu of divorce, decisions regarding marital issues such as child custody, visitation, spousal support, child support, day-to-day bill payments, property settlement, health care, medical insurance, pension plans as well as the inheritance. One needs to clear these issues in order to attain legal separation in any state of the USA. However, the respondent can counter-file with divorce suit. If such a thing happens, the court dismisses the separation plea and proceeds with the divorce suit. In short, legal separation is a suit to be approached cautiously as important decisions need to be taken which are supposed to be long-lasting if the couple eventually decides to divorce.
  2. No Cohabitation
    When a couple files for legal separation, they are supposed to stay separate and apart from each other meaning that they should not cohabit that is should not indulge in sexual relationship. Neither should they socialize as a couple. If they opt for an in-home separation, some ground rules regarding dating and childcare need to be sorted out before the legal separation is granted. Some states insist on actual separation, that is the couples should not be staying under the same roof. If they are found to live together (even without cohabitation), the legal separation decree can be revoked and the couple has to start afresh with filing the petition and the lengthy process. If any of the conditions of the legal separation agreement are violated, the separation ceases to be and as mentioned above, the couple has to start from scratch.
  3. Court Order Necessary
    Legal separation is generally granted in the form of a court order in the states which recognize the documentation for legal separation or the states which have a provision termed as legal separation. An oral or written agreement which is not notarized or not reviewed by an attorney cannot be taken as legal document. The separation agreement has to be reviewed by the attorney, signed by both the parties and notarized. This agreement is submitted to the court and then the court approves it and passes a court order or decree declaring the couple as legally separated.
    A separation agreement or a settlement agreement acts as a court order in the states which do not recognize the provision of legal separation. One cannot obtain legal separation without a court order and a settlement agreement authorized by the court.

    These are some generic rules as mentioned above. However, the rules or the laws for legal separation change according to the states in which one wishes to file for legal separation. Besides, one has to note that legal separation is not a trial separation; rather it is a big step just like divorce and the only difference between divorce and legal separation is that divorce ends a legal valid marriage and the couple does not remain related in any way; whereas after legal separation is granted, the couple remains married and cannot remarry unless they get a divorce decree processed.

    In some states, however, legal separation acts as a trial separation giving the couples time to reflect what went wrong in their relationship as well as things they could do to make everything right for the sake of their marriage and children. Legal separation is an ideal option for the couples who have minor children or who are near the retirement age and have invested their life-earnings together. It is also ideal for religious couples whose religion frowns upon the divorce and who cannot divorce due to these religious affiliations.

    There are only few states which recognize the provision of legal separation. All 44 states except Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida, Mississippi, Texas and Georgia have the provision in the form of a court order for the couple to be legally separated. In these six states, legal separation is known by different names and the provisions are different so that it is easy to acquire a divorce rather then a separation.

    Legal separation is considered a softer option than divorce as the rules of legal separation are made according to the benefits of both the parties. Besides, even after the couple is separated, they can still avail insurance coverage, inheritance, tax exemptions and other benefits from each other's investments.

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