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Massachusetts Legal Separation
Legal Separation in Massachusetts

Massachusetts does not actually use the term legal separation - a spouse who wants to separate in Massachusetts files a Complaint for Separate Support - however, a married couple in Massachusetts considering divorce but not ready to take that plunge may consider this type of separation. Separate Support is an option for couples that no longer want to live together but wish to remain married for various reasons, including religious expectations and tax benefits. It requires a court order that defines the terms and conditions to which each spouse agrees.

In Separate Support, a couple enters into a separation agreement, which defines each spouses rights and responsibilities, such as support, visitation, child custody and the division of property and debts. The agreement is enforceable once signed by each spouse and filed with the court.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legal binding contract signed by spouses, which is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. This can be a very complex and detailed document depending upon the unique situation of the marriage. Many spouses consult an attorney to provide this or they decide to prepare their own.


The petitioner files a Complaint for Separate Support using the form available from the Probate and Family Court in the county where he or she resides. The complaint is filed in the county where he or she resides, or the county where the couple last resided.


The grounds for Separate Support are: failure to provide support without justifiable cause, desertion, the spouses have a justifiable cause to live separate and apart or have been living separate and apart for that justifiable cause.


One spouse must be a resident if the grounds happened in Massachusetts. If the grounds happened outside the commonwealth, the spouse must be a resident for one year.


The court issues a summons directed to the defendant who is served by mail or personally. The sheriff or deputy sheriff serves the documents to the defendant then mails the original copy of the summons back to petitioner. The official completes the back of the summons with a statement of service. The summons is then filed with the court as proof of service. After submitting the summons, the petitioner files for a court hearing and the judge enters a judgment for separation at the end of the hearing.

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