As you seek a legal separation, it is essential to keep in mind that this contract is legally binding. Unlike a divorce, where you terminate your marriage, a separation only puts you and your spouse apart legally.
You can, however, continue marking your official documents as married. There will be a division of property, child custody, and finances.
Whatever you agree upon on your separation will continue to be so even after filing for a divorce if you choose to. Regardless of what reason you are filing for a legal separation, here are the steps to go about it.
Know Your State Residency Requirements
In most cases, the legal requirements to file divorce are the same for filing for a legal separation. Different states have different requirements when filing for a legal separation from your spouse.
For example, when filing for a separation legally in a state like California or Nevada, one of the parties has to be living in the state.
If it's a domestic partnership case, and it was registered in this state, any of the parties can file for divorce even if they do not live in the state.
However, if the domestic partnership wasn't registered in the state, one of the parties must be living in the state for the separation to be eligible. You can check your state laws to know the requirements for the success of your legal separation.
File For a Separation Petition
After checking your state residency requirements, you can now go ahead and file for a separation petition.
There are several ways you can file for a separation; contacting an attorney, contacting your court clerk, or doing it on your own.
There are also several online resources that you can use to get your petition into motion. Filing for legal separation forms attracts a fee. The fees vary depending on the state and the county in which you are filing.
You should make sure to check how much your state requires as a separation fee.
File For a Legal Separation Agreement
After filing for a legal separation petition, you will be required to file for a separation agreement.
You should ensure that the agreement covers how marital assets are distributed, guidelines on child support and custody, and on dating other people. Some states refer to dating when spouses are separated as adultery.
Therefore, you need to make sure you know what the states hold about separation when filing for one. You don’t want to be sued for something you can avoid.
Present the Separation Agreement to Your Spouse
Filing for separation can be done jointly, or one party may decide to file it independently. In case the separation was not done together, there is a need to serve your spouse with the separation agreement.
This is done once the separation petition has been filed. Your spouse is allowed some time to respond. If your spouse refuses to sign the agreement, perhaps due to separation anxiety, consider contacting an expert lawyer.
If they accept the terms, then you can proceed to the next step. They may agree with the separation agreement as a whole but disagree with a few aspects of the agreement.
The time given is for the other party to take time and look at the agreement's details and decide if they are okay with it. The sort of agreement you come to at this point determines the next step of the process.
Settle Unresolved Issues
Getting a legal separation can get complicated. There are several possibilities, such as your spouse refusing to agree with the whole separation or an aspect of the agreement that they are not satisfied with.
If any of the above happens, and you and your spouse can’t agree, you will need mediation through the court. A judge will then make a decision depending on the facts presented to him.
Signing and Notarizing the Agreement
When both parties are satisfied with the separation agreement, the only thing that remains is for both spouses to sign and notarize the agreement.
The contract is then forwarded to the court clerk, who enters it into the court records for a judge's approval.
However, it is essential to note that anything any of the parties do before the court can approve the separation can alter the results. The most affected aspect of the separation agreement is that concerning personal belongings or custody.
If, for example, one of the parties leaves their home before the court has approved the separation, the court could interpret this as abandoning one’s obligations.
Therefore, it is essential to make sure you avoid actions that may jeopardize the court's approval of your legal separation.
Organize Your Records and Execute the Agreement
After the court clerk has presented the judge's agreement and it is approved, it becomes effective. Make sure you have a record copy of the contract with you.
This is for you to continually check the guidelines on the agreement. They are meant to keep you on the safe side and prevent you from doing things that may breach the agreement.
Breaking a legally binding contract can lead to a lawsuit. The guideline on the separation agreement varies from state to state.
Therefore, you need to check with an attorney to make sure you are legally protected in whatever you do.
Filing for separation is not so different from a divorce. However, one should be keen on the guidelines that their residential states have in place about separation.
Different states have different requirements and laws regarding separation. It is advisable that when filing for a separation, you get yourself an attorney who will guide you on the requirements.
They also give you all the necessary information to make sure your separation agreement is approved and that you follow the guidelines to ensure you are legally protected.
It is important to be careful in what you do before a judge can approve the agreement. Some actions may be interpreted by the court in a manner that may disadvantage you when the court approves the agreement.