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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Legal Separation; Separate Support; Separate Maintenance


Term Definition Legal Separation; Separate Support; Separate Maintenance - a legal lawsuit for support while the spouses are living separate and apart.
Application in Divorce In general, a married couple separate in one of three ways: on a trial basis, where they live apart until they decided what to do; permanently, where they live apart with intent of a divorce; and legally, which is similar to a divorce.

The legal rights of the spouse who separate in these ways are different. Generally, for example, couples who separate permanently may seek temporary support pending a divorce, and the property and income and debts and liabilities incurred belong solely to the spouse who acquired them. By comparison, a person who is legally separated is married in name only.

Some states permit a couple to legally separate, and some require a divorce.

People choose this route over divorce, which ends a marriage, because of religious beliefs, personal values (the desire to keep a family together if only in name) or practical considerations, such as medical insurance that would be lost if the couple divorced.

Some insurance companies, however, consider a legal separation a terminating event, so care should be taken to make certain of spousal coverage in the event of a legal separation.

A legal separation requires a court order establishing separate support (which is also called maintenance) and it divides property, establishes alimony, child support and visitation.

Couples who separate this way not longer file joint income tax returns.

Spouses who have a legal separation are still married, if only in name; they are not free to marry for this reason.

See Judicial Separation; Divorce A Mensa Thoro.

Compare A Vinculo Matrimonii.

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