How to file legal separation without a lawyer?

Feb

9

2011

Legal separation is not divorce but has many benefits like reconciliation,  spouse is applicable for certain social security benefits, spouse can continue health insurance coverage, inheritance, right to make medical or funeral decisions for the other, etc.  Due to the similarities shared between legal separation and divorce, most people confuse between a legally separated couple and a divorced one. But when it comes to the minor legal details, legal separation and divorce are different.

A legal separation is a court ruling allowing a married couple to live separately with the same rights and obligations as a divorced couple without the couple actually getting a divorce. The couple is in fact still legally married, but they no longer live together and may request alimony, child support and division of property. However neither spouse is legally entitled to remarry according to the separation. To be considered legally separated, the couple must petition the court to recognize the separation.

Since legal separation is not too complicated legal procedure, you can file separation papers and get separated on your own with out hiring an attorney. Following are general steps describing how to file legal separation without a lawyer:

  • Each state has different residency requirements, so check your state residency requirements by calling the local family court or visiting court’s official website.
  • Make sure you have a certified copy of your marriage certificate to prove that you were legally married. If not, get a copy from the place you were married.
  • The local family court, on request, can provide the separation related forms you will need to file legal separation. Most court’s official website have a provision to download and print relevant forms, if not then you might have to visit the court personally or is possible, talk to the clerk of the court and have the forms mailed.
  • Complete all the forms required and return them to the Court for filing. Most courts are cooperative and help individuals with legal procedures however don’t expect them to provide any legal advice.
  • Legal separation is a legally binding document, so make sure to include provisions for alimony, child support, child custody, child visitation, equitable property division, etc. Legal separation may also dictate the divorce decree in some cases if the separation progress into a divorce so be careful while filling the forms.
  • Once the legal separation is filed you will get a court date and will have to serve the other party a copy of the petition for separation that is the forms you filed and inform them of the court date.
  • It is entirely your responsibility to serve the other party with the forms and not of the court. You will need to locate a constable or Sheriff, pay them and they will serve the other party they forms.
  • Once the other party is served, the other party will have a certain amount of time to respond to the petition.
  • If both parties agree to the terms of the legal separation, the only thing to do is have the agreement notarized with the signatures of both spouses.
  • If the other spouse disputes the separation, the judge will make final decisions about the separation in the court.

Remember separation is not divorce. Some states require a couple to file a legal separation before being able to file for divorce. In other cases, a couple can choose a legal separation to avoid the negative stigma associated with divorce, for religious purposes or to allow time for counseling and time off that can lead to reconciliation.

Good Luck!

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