Going Separate Ways : A Guide to Legal Separation

lawyer and client

When a married couple decides that they can no longer live together, they have the option to legally separate. This process is often drawn out and complicated, but it can provide a way for both parties to move on with their lives. Here is a guide to legal separation-what it is, the process involved, and the benefits and drawbacks of pursuing this option.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation is a court-ordered arrangement in which a married couple agrees to live apart. This type of arrangement may be appropriate for couples who do not wish to divorce but want to live separately and have the legal aspects of their marriage resolved.

Not only does legal separation provide a way for couples to live apart, but it also allows them to resolve critical issues related to their marriage. These issues include child custody, visitation, alimony, and property division.

The Process of Legal Separation

The process of legal separation can be complicated and time-consuming. It is essential to understand the steps involved; here is a brief overview:

Petition Filing

The first step is to file a petition for legal separation with the court. This document must include information about the couple’s marriage, grounds for separation, and any other relevant details.

Service of Process

After the petition is filed, it must be served to the other spouse. This can be done in person or by mail. You will need to provide proof that the other spouse received the petition.

Response Filing

The next step is for the other spouse to file a response to the petition. This document must be filed within a certain time frame, typically 30 days. In the response, the spouse can agree to the terms of separation or contest them.

If there are contested issues, the couple will need to attend a hearing where a judge will make decisions about those issues. If there are no contested issues, the judge will sign a separation agreement that both parties must follow.


If either party does not adhere to the terms of the separation agreement, it can be enforced by the court. This means that the violating party may be held in contempt of court and face penalties, such as a fine or jail time.

How to Choose a Family Lawyer

If you are considering a legal separation, it is important to choose a qualified family lawyer to represent you. This lawyer will help you navigate the process and ensure that your rights are protected.

Here are some tips on how to choose a family law attorney:

  • Check their credentials. Make sure the lawyer you are considering is licensed to practice law in your state.
  • Ask for referrals. Talk to friends, family, and other professionals you trust to see if they can recommend a good lawyer.
  • Schedule a consultation. Once you have narrowed down your options, schedule a consultation with each of the lawyers you are considering. This will give you a chance to get to know the lawyer and ask any questions you may have.

Woman sitting in stressed after a fight with husband

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Separation

There are both benefits and drawbacks to legal separation. This section will outline some of the most common ones.


  • One of the main benefits of legal separation is that it gives couples time to live apart and decide if they want to divorce. This can be a good option for couples who are not sure if they want to end their marriage.
  • Separation can also provide a way for couples to resolve critical issues, such as child custody and property division. This can make the divorce process simpler and less contentious.
  • Finally, separation can be less expensive and time-consuming than divorce.

Drawbacks of Separation

Although separation can be the right decision for some couples, it’s important to be aware of the potential drawbacks before making any decisions.

  • One of the biggest drawbacks of separation is the financial implications. When you separate, you and your partner will no longer share finances, which can be a big adjustment. You’ll need to start budgeting for yourself and may have to make some lifestyle changes.
  • Separation can also be emotionally challenging, especially if you’re not the one who wants to end the relationship. You may feel isolated, lost, and confused. It’s important to reach out to friends and family for support during this time.
  • Finally, separation can be stressful because it’s often accompanied by other life changes, such as moving house or changing schools. If you have children, they may also find the transition difficult. It’s important to be patient and understanding during this time.

If you’re considering separation, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully. Separation can be a difficult and stressful process, but it may also be the right decision for you and your family.

Scroll to Top