If you have been separated from your spouse, or you intend to separate from your spouse, you may wonder what impact that status can have on ultimately seeking a divorce. You may wonder whether a separation can be used as grounds for divorce.
The reality is that separation is defined in a number of different ways in the family law arena. In addition, family law statutes vary from one state to another. With that in mind, there are some general factors that you should bear in mind when it comes to separation and ultimately pursuing a divorce.
State Laws Requiring Period of Separation Before Filing for Divorce
Some states maintain statutes that require spouses to live apart for a specified period of time before filing for divorce. Although not grounds for divorce, it is a requirement before marriage dissolution proceedings can commence.
Separation in the Form of Abandonment
All states have laws on the books that permit the pursuit of a divorce when a spouse is considered to have abandoned the marriage. Although the laws differ somewhat from one jurisdiction to another, all abandonment laws require a physical separation between the parties. There is no recognition of emotional abandonment, in the absence of physical separation as a grounds for pursuing a divorce.
When it comes to pursuing a divorce based upon abandonment, each state sets forth a time period of physical separation necessary as a prerequisite to filing for divorce. A divorce lawyer in your area can provide specific information about separation, abandonment, and filing for divorce.
Legal Separation and Divorce
Some states have statutes that permit a couple to obtain a legal separation. In basic terms, a legal separation involve court proceedings that address the same issues otherwise raised in divorce proceedings. The only real distinction is that in a legal separation case, the marriage itself is not terminated.
Some states permit a legal separation to remain in place for an indefinite period of time. Some jurisdictions put a time limit on a legal separation. When the deadline arrives, a couple must either pursue a divorce, or the legal separation case is dismissed.
The existence of a legal separation does not, in and of itself, constitute grounds for divorce. However, its existence can be used as evidence in a divorce case based on irreconcilable differences. Such a case requires a demonstration that the couple cannot live together as husband and wife. They must demonstrate that the ends of marriage can no longer be met by permitting the relationship between the couple to carry forth.
As is the case of legal separation, the informal separation of a husband and wife does not in and of itself constitute legal grounds for a divorce. However, as is also the case with a legal separation, the informal derivation can serve as evidence that a marriage is unsustainable. This is evidence of value in a state that permits a divorce based upon irreconcilable differences.
Separation Arising from a Protective Order
Another form of separation between a husband and wife occurs when a spouse seeks a protection from abuse order from the court. If there exists a protection from abuse order that results in the physical separation of the spouses, this situation potentially can be grounds for divorce.
State laws across the United States permit a person to seek the termination of a marriage when the other spouse is emotionally, psychologically, or physically abusive. As an aside, in many cases of abuse, the abuser is guilty of all three types of abuse.
Retain a Skilled Divorce Lawyer
The best course to take to ascertain what your rights and interests are in a divorce, including what constitute valid grounds for ending a marriage, is to retain the professional services of an experienced divorce lawyer. The first step in the process of hiring a divorce attorney is to arrange for a preliminary consultation.
A preliminary consultation permits a divorce lawyer the occasion to evaluate your situation. Counsel can make recommendations about how to proceed with your case. In addition, you have the chance to raise any questions that you might have about your case, divorce law, and divorce court procedures. As a general rule, a divorce lawyer will not charge you fee for an initial consultation to discuss and analyze for your case.