When Does Separation Become Legal?
After the petition for separation is filed, a court hearing is scheduled. This hearing is very similar to one that takes place in divorce proceedings. The court will determine the conditions of the separation, particularly as it involves finances, property, and the custody and care of minor children.
If the couple has provided a Separation Agreement, the court will consider using the agreement as the basis of the legal terms of the separation. In some cases, the court may adopt the entire Separation Agreement as it is.
After the hearing, a court order is issued that contains the final conditions of the separation. At this point, the spouses are now legally separated.
One common reason for getting a legal separation is that—in many states—a full divorce will not be granted by the court until a couple has been legally separated for a specified period of time. That said, a legally separated couple is under no obligation to eventually file for divorce. They can remain legally separated for as long as they are willing to stay married while living apart.
If the time does come when a divorce is desired, having an established Separation Agreement can be very helpful as it may be accepted as the final settlement arrangement between spouses.