Massachusetts does not allow a “legal separation,” but sometimes divorce is not yet an option. Many couples are not yet ready to proceed with a divorce and would like to try to live separately for period of time prior to filing for divorce. Because Massachusetts does not recognize “legal separation,” an action for separate support will ensure that a spouse will be financially provided for while issues between the spouses are resolved until the couple is ready to move forward with a divorce or in some cases reconcile. Although Married couples are free to live apart without the Court’s intervention, sometimes the court can provide assistance in ordering child support, a specific parenting plan, or spousal support.
You can file for separate support if you’re married and:
- Your spouse has failed to support you
- Your spouse has deserted you
- You and your spouse are living separately for “justifiable cause,” or
- You and your spouse have “justifiable cause” to live apart, but are still living together
Such an action will begin with filing a complaint for separate support and maintenance. When you file your request for separate support you must be a resident in the state, living apart from your spouse, and provide a legal reason—or, grounds—for your request. Unlike divorce, which requires a party to list an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or a specific, fault-based reason for the application, the only requirement for a spouse asking for separate support is that there is a justifiable reason for living apart, which is a broad standard. (M.G.L.A. 208 § 1A.) Justifiable cause for such an action would include adultery, abuse or desertion and the court will accept any of these reasons for your request for separate support.
During the legal process for separate support and maintenance, the Court will make orders regarding child support, a parenting plan, and spousal support. The court may also determine which spouse will have exclusive use of the marital home during the separation, however the Court will not allocate personal or real property unless the parties move forward with a divorce.
If you would like to speak with a qualified family law attorney regarding filing for separate support, contact the Law Office of Rachel M. Matos today to schedule a consultation.