Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

The status of legal separation in Massachusetts

Unlike other states, our state does not recognize legal separation. In this state, if a married couple wishes to live apart and have the legal protection of an order dividing their property and providing for child custody and the like, then they will have to file for a divorce.

Of course, they are free to use divorce mediation and other techniques to make the affair as cooperative and as friendly as possible. They may wish to do so for a number of reasons, such as for the good of their children.

For those who, for whatever reason, really do not want to go through the divorce process, an action for separate support may be available. Because it is not a divorce, an action for separate support will not be able to address the division of property. The parties will have to work property-related matters out amongst themselves.

However, an action for separate support can result in a court order requiring one spouse to pay money to support both the other spouse and any children born from the marriage. In order to file an action for separate support, a spouse must be able to claim that the other spouse has deserted the family or is no longer financially supporting the family.

The person seeking separate support may also base the claim on the fact that there is justifiable cause for the couple to live apart. Similar to reasons one can seek a fault-based divorce in this state, a justifiable cause may include things like adultery, domestic violence and the like.

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Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

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Needham, MA 02494

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