Legal separation is largely the same thing as divorce. When you legally separate the court will divide your assets and your liabilities, can grant child support and spousal maintenance, and can enter a parenting plan. The only catch is that at the end of it all you’re still technically married. That means neither of you can remarry.
Why would you want to do this?
There could be a number of reasons that legal separation is the right option for you. Maybe you and your spouse have hit a rough patch, want to legally separate yourselves and your possessions, but want to hold out in case reconciliation is a possibility. Maybe there’s a religious reason behind it all.
The process to begin a legal separation is the same as a divorce. First, you need a petition. If your spouse is in agreement, you can sign a joinder. If they are not, you’ll need a summons and personal service. If you serve them, your spouse will then have the opportunity to respond within 20 days (60 days if they are out of state).
Then you wait. You must wait at least 90 days before you can finalize the legal separation. If things are a bit more complicated, you may end up going to trial (11 months from filing), or mediation. Once you’ve hit an agreement on all things, you’ll have a Decree of Legal Separation. This decree can be converted into a divorce decree six months later.