Whether it be for religious, tax, or other reasons, some couples may decide to legally separate rather than divorce. There is no specific process for legal separation in Massachusetts. Most spouses simply move out of their shared home and live separately. There is, however, a process to petition for child or spousal support.
Criteria for Spousal Support
The criteria for filing for spousal support is actually somewhat similar to that for filing for divorce. There must be justifiable cause for your separation or living apart. Examples of such cause are adultery or abuse.
The first step towards obtaining spousal support upon legal separation in Massachusetts is to file a complaint. The specific form needed is the “Complaint for Separate Support.” You must include a certified copy of your marriage certificate and a financial statement form. If you are also requesting child support, you will need the Child Support Worksheet and an affidavit disclosing care or custody proceedings.
There are several fees that must be paid when filing for separate support. The filing fee is $100. There is also a surcharge of $15 and $5 summons.
Notifying Your Spouse
After filing, the court will provide you with a notice and summons. You must provide your spouse with a copy of these along with your original filing forms. To confirm that this has been done properly, you must have the paperwork “served” to them, usually by a sheriff. There is usually a fee for that service. If your spouse no longer lives in Massachusetts, you will need to find a similar service in their state or town. Your spouse will need to fill out the second page of the summons and return it, confirming that the summons was received.
You and your spouse must appear in court. The judge will review your paperwork and evaluate you and your spouse’s income, debts, and living expenses (which may also include childcare and medical expenses). The judge may ask additional questions to help him/her make a decision. If a home is owned by either you or your spouse, the judge may order the sale (or transfer) of that property as part of his/her ruling.
Final Thoughts on Legal Separation in Massachusetts
Although there is no formal process for legal separation in Massachusetts, you can still apply for spousal support or child support when you are separated. The lack of a legal separation hearing doesn’t necessarily make requesting support any easier. Preparing the information properly can improve your chances of winning a judgement. You have the right to hire an attorney to provide critical advice and guidance through this process. For a free initial consultation, please give Martino Law Group a call at 781-606-9002.