When a marriage hits rock bottom, the best thing to do is go your separate ways. But that is easier said than done, primarily when you have invested a lot of your time, emotions, or even money in the relationship. Things get even more complicated when you have kids to think about.
It will help to file for a legal separation in such a case. Legal separation offers you a ground to reevaluate yourselves and decide if you want to reconcile the relationship. Unlike a divorce, a legal separation is reversible without getting remarried because the marriage did not technically end. But how do you file for legal separation?
Understand Your State’s Residency Requirements
You must meet your state’s residency requirements for separation. For instance, do both of you live in the same state? Have you lived in the state long enough to file for legal separation there?
Take your time to check your state’s separation law to confirm if your reason for filing for a legal separation is acceptable. Some acceptable grounds for legal separation include imprisonment, adultery, domestic violence, neglect, physical limitations, STI, unsound mind and behaviors, and impotence.
You may also argue that you are no longer attracted to each other. Note that the requirements vary from one state to the next.
After confirming that you are eligible to file for legal separation in your state, you can move to petition filing. You may file a petition by contacting your county court clerk, do a pro se, file online via the government website, or let your attorney do it for you. You are required to pay a filing fee, which again varies by county.
Ensure to include critical information in the petition file, such as child custody, financial disclosure, living arrangements, and spousal support.
File a Separation Agreement
You need to file a legal separation agreement along with your petition file. Again, you may choose to get an attorney to help with drafting a separation agreement or do it yourself. You must fill in all the required fields for the document to be valid.
Include how you intend to divide your finances and assets, such as real estate, investments like exchange trades and stocks, and marital properties.
Keep in mind that each case is different, so it will help to discuss what you want with your spouse to draft a competent separation agreement. For example, you may decide to keep joint accounts for shared bills if you have kids or choose to do things separately.
Legal Separation Papers Serving
This step applies if you and your spouse are not filing for legal separation jointly. After serving them with the papers, they will have 30 days to respond to your petition.
Solve Unsettled Issues
If you have any pending issues that you feel the need to settle, it’s best to solve them before heading to the court for the hearing. The idea lowers the cost of the separation, eliminates the need to involve the court, and it is easier to come into agreements that favor both of you.
Notarize the Petition Agreement
If your spouse agrees to the separation petition, you both need to sign and notarize the separation agreement. The clerk will then take it to court for approval.
Be careful with anything you do in between the signing and approval, as it could affect the final decision from the judge. Don’t do anything that could jeopardize your wish to be granted a legal separation. You should also keep a copy of the separation agreement, just in case you need it for future reference.
Get a free legal separation agreement form from our website to speed up your application and save on cost.