How to get legally separated from your husband

Updated April 17, 2017

When a wife decides to separate from her husband and is having trouble reaching an agreement on child custody, splitting of assets and dividing the bills, a legal separation may become necessary. A legal separation outlines the responsibility of each spouse and protects the wife from being held responsible for her husband's debts, liabilities and taxes which occur after the date of the separation. Becoming legally separated requires a few simple steps and, in the long run, can save a lot of heartache.

Obtain a petition for separation form. The forms are available for pickup at the family court division of your local justice department, or they may also be obtained online and printed from your state's justice department website; contact your justice department for its website address, as each state's justice department has its own website.

Fill out the petition for separation form. The person filing for separation is called the petitioner and the one being served is the respondent. Basic information such as the date of your wedding, birthdays, social security numbers, and information of any children together will be needed. Additional information will be required such as visitation rights and health insurance for any children together, splitting of assets and property, and debts. Make copies of all the forms for your records.

File the original forms you filled out with the county clerk at your local justice department. Once the forms are filed the clerk will certify the petition and a summons to be served to the respondent. You will also receive additional handouts at this time regarding mediation and family law guidelines, local family resources including parenting classes. You will get two copies of all the handouts; one for you and one for your spouse.

Pay a filing fee to have the forms filed and the respondent served. Typical filing fees are £195-500. Contact your local court to find out what the filing fees are in your area. You may request a waiver of the fee or to have it deferred. If the fee is waived you will not have to pay it; if it is deferred, you do not have to pay it at the time of filing, but will have to pay it at a later date. In some cases the respondent can be listed as the responsible party for paying the deferred fee.

Have the respondent served with a certified summons and a copy of the petition filed. The respondent will also receive copies of all the handouts the court clerk gave the petitioner. Once served, the respondent has 30 days to file a response. The respondent can file a response agreeing with the terms of the petition, file a counter-petition if they don't agree with the terms, or counter-file for divorce.

Once an agreement is reached by both the petitioner and respondent, notarised signatures are required on the documents. The documents are then presented to the court for approval, and then filed with the county clerk.


Consider hiring a domestic dispute attorney to help you file for separation if your husband will not cooperate or may get violent. Facilitators are usually available to help in filling out the forms if needed. A facilitator is someone through your local court that is available to assist in filing for separation.

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About the Author

Amy Hannaford teaches childbirth education classes and a healthy pregnancy series in Southern Oregon. Hannaford holds an Associate of Arts degree, a certificate in medical assisting, and has been a childbirth educator and birth doula for 20 years. She has been writing articles for Demand Media since 2008.