Legal Separation Fact Sheet

An action for legal separation provides a means by which a husband and wife can divest themselves of the right and obligation of cohabitation.  Couples may not be ready to be divorced as the possibility of reconciliation remains a viable alternative.  Some couples decide that a physical and legal separation may provide the much needed emotional U turn to marriage.  The husband and wife are still married upon the entry of a judgment of legal separation.

Procedure – The procedures for starting and completing an action for a legal separation are identical to those required for dissolution of marriage. Obtaining a legal separation is typically not any faster or easier than obtaining dissolution of marriage or a divorce. Orders of property division, alimony, child support and custody are available in a legal separation as they are in a dissolution case.

Income Taxes – Legally separated spouses are treated as single for federal tax purposes.

Medical Insurance Benefits – Some plans allow for continuance of medical benefits, however not all.  Verify with your insurance plan if this is the case.  Just as in divorce cases, the Cobra benefits may be available if Legal separation terminates medical insurance benefits. 

Reconciliation – Legally separated spouses may reconcile, resume their marital relationship and have the legal separation terminated by filing a declaration of resumption (of marital relations) with the court.

Conversion from Legal Separation to Dissolution – So long as legally separated spouses have not “resumed their marital relationship,” they may have their marriage dissolved by filing with the court a motion to convert a legal separation to dissolution of marriage.

A court will typically respect the financial orders entered as part of the judgment of legal separation and not change these when converting the Legal Separation to Dissolution of Marriage. Recognize that the court does have the power to disregard all or part of these legal separation financial orders if it determines that due to changed circumstances, such orders are no longer fair and equitable.