At some point, your desire to stay with your spouse may be undermined, but you don’t want to break the marriage bond. In that case, the best thing to do would be to file a legal separation.
Technically known as “a separation from bed and board,” or “limited divorce,” a legal separation is a binding agreement similar to a divorce. But the difference is, divorce brings an end to marriage while legal separation means spouses are still married, yet they put a stop to marriage obligations.
With a legal separation, you can petition a court to allow you to leave or stay away from your spouse. And it may sometimes come before you decide to divorce. Therefore, you must watch everything you agree to do before you sign a legal separation.
Here are the steps for filing a legal separation:
Check the essential separation requirement of your state.
One of the things to check on is state residency requirements. These refer to the duration of time you must stay in a state before filing for separation.
In a legal separation context, residency requirement means you have lived in a state for a specific period dictated by the states’ law and that you can prove that both of you meet the requirements.
The different States have got varied residency requirements. For instance, you can file a legal separation in California if you or your spouse lives in the state. Or, if you don’t live within the state but you had registered your marriage or domestic partnership, any of you may file for a legal separation.
Therefore, before you decide to file for a legal separation, learn the requirements and confirm with your state’s law under which conditions you’re allowed to file a separation suit. Otherwise, your case may be dismissed.
File the Separation Petition
If you meet all the residency requirements, you can then file a legal separation suit with the court through:
The help of your attorney
Visit your state’s government for more
Prose – self-filing of the petition at the court clerk
You’ll be expected to pay some fees, which may vary depending on your state. So, you must check the filling fee you’ll be required to pay.
File a Legal Separation Agreement.
With your separation petition, you should now move to file a separation agreement. This court-ordered document that couples use to divide their assets, liabilities, and responsibilities when preparing for a separation or a divorce.
It helps guide couples, especially if they are unsure of their marital status and plans to establish boundaries.
While filling a legal separation agreement, ensure the contract covers all responsibilities like child custody, support, and visitation. Also, ensure the agreement outlines how your marital assets will be distributed.
Serve your partner with the separation agreement.
Though there are circumstances when both spouses move to court for a separation, it’s however common for individual persons. So, in case you’re the person advocating for a break, you must then serve your spouse with a copy of the agreement after you have filed a suit.
Like in divorce, your spouse will have some time to respond to the petition against them. It usually takes 30 days to answer for the legal separation.
Clear up Unresolved Issues
Not all spouses would agree with a served petition, and they may file a counter-petition. Should that happen, you can either settle through collaborative law or mediation before a judge.
Sign and Validate the Agreement
Congratulations if your spouse agrees with the terms of the contract. Now, you have to sign and validate or notarize the agreement for court approval. You must, however, be cautious as the things you do before the court approves your agreement may impact the contract.
Assemble your Forms and Execute the Agreement
After the court judge has signed the legal separation agreement, the court clerk will file and record the entire proceedings. You must also have a copy of the documents to follow the whole process of the separation correctly.
In case you’re looking to file a marital legal separation, you may download a separation agreement template here.