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Legal Separation Laws

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What is Legal Separation or Marital Separation?

Legal separation is when a married couple makes a binding agreement about how to manage their affairs and assets while living apart, but do not get a formal divorce.

What States Allow Legal Separation?

Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

What States Don’t Allow Legal Separation?

Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

What Are Some Differences Between States Regarding Legal Separation?

Prior to divorce, certain states may require or allow different separation situations, including: 

  • Requiring the couple to separate before filing for divorce
  • Allowing a court order for legal separation to be turned into a divorce proceeding
  • Requiring the couple to start the process of divorce, even if separated
  • Giving courts the authority to decide whether to change a separation agreement into a proceeding for divorce

What if I Live in a Community Property State?

In community property states all property the couple acquired during the marriage is owned equally by each spouse. When separating, it is important to realize that until a divorce is finalized, the community property will continue to be owned in part by the other spouse.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Separation?

If you are considering a separation, you should contact an experienced family law attorney who can explain how your state’s laws affect you. Speaking with a family law lawyer before separating can make the best of your situation.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 11-24-2015 09:50 PM PST

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