If you have decided that you want to separate legally from your spouse, you will need to begin the process and file a legal separation.
Something that you should take note of is that legal separation is no small event, and is a binding legal contract just like divorce is. Also take note that anything you agree to in your legal separation agreement will take precedence when it comes to officially filing a divorce as well.
Here are the steps that you will need to follow when filing for a legal separation:
Meet Your Residency Requirements
You will want to start by researching the residency requirements and divorce laws in your state. This will help you confirm that you meet the residency requirements needed to file for the legal separation. These requirements will be the same for both the legal separation and the divorce.
File A Legal Separation Petition
Meeting your residency requirements is a very important step in filing your separation. This is because you have to meet them in order to file a legal separation petition with the court. The simplest way to file a legal separation petition will either be to file a pro se with your court clerk or by getting in touch with an attorney to guide you through the process.
File Your Legal Separation Agreement
When you file your petition for a legal separation, you will also need to file your legal separation agreement as well. This agreement will cover child support and custody, visitation rights, spousal support, marital assets, debt, and so on.
Responding To A Legal Separation Petition
Separating legally will always go by more smoothly and in a more time efficient manner if you file jointly with your spouse. If you only file for a legal separation petition on your own, however, your spouse will have a certain number of days (depending on your state) to respond to the petition. This is the same as with divorce.
Take note that if your spouse does not agree to the petitions that you have set forth in the petition, then they have the right to file a counter petition as well. In this event, the two of you would then seek to reach an agreement via divorce mediation. Otherwise, you will have to go to a judge who will settle the issues that you cannot agree upon.
As you can probably tell by now, separating legally can be just as complicated as undergoing a divorce.
Signing and Notarizing The Agreement
If both you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement with the terms in the legal separation agreement, then both of you will need to sign and notarize the agreement. The court clerk will then enter it into the court records, where it will later be approved by a judge.
Once the agreement has been signed and notarized, it officially becomes a legally binding document that both you and your spouse will need to abide by. Be sure to keep a copy for your own records.
P.S. Now that you know how to work your way through the legal separation, you will want to prepare for the divorce itself. Do you know all of the paperwork that your attorney will need to make the case for you? If not that’s okay… you can grab a copy of our FREE Divorce Documents Checklist by clicking the image below!