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Separate Support: Massachusetts' Version of Legal Separation

Sometimes, a person may be separated from their spouse even though they are not seeking a divorce. In some states, couples in this situation will obtain legal separation. However, Massachusetts does not have a process for legal separation. Instead, the state uses a process known as separate support. Separate support allows a person to seek financial support from their partner in some circumstances. This legal order does not end a marriage but does create accountability when a divorce is not being sought.

Separate support may also extend beyond basic financial matters. A person may ask the court to create orders for health insurance, the division of assets, and establish child custody or support requirements. In some cases, more forms of support are available if an individual can show that they are needed.

Why Choose Separate Support Over Divorce?

Separate support is useful for people who want to stay married for various reasons. One reason a person may want to stay in their marriage is to retain a benefit such as health insurance. However, those who have a divorce or annulment pending are not able to file a request for separate support.

What Needs to be Proven to Obtain Separate Support?

When requesting separate support, a person is claiming that their spouse is not supporting them when they can do so. Notably, both people do not have to separately live for one to pursue separate support from the other.

One of the following must be shown by a spouse to obtain separate support:

  • The individual has no justifiable reason to withhold support
  • The defendant has deserted the plaintiff
  • The spouses are living separately for justifiable reasons
  • The spouses do not live separately, but one has a justifiable reason to do so

A central concept relating to separate support is justifiable cause. Whether a couple is living together or not, a person filing for separate support must have a justifiable cause for why they do or should live separately. Justifiable causes include abuse, adultery, or desertion. If a person does not live with their spouse, they must file for separate support in the county that their partner lives in. After filing for separate support, a person must have their spouse served with a notice of the filing.

A judge will decide the terms of separate support, and both parties may be questioned in court. Factors such as the income of both individuals, children who need support, and other expenses will be considered by the judge. In some cases, a judge will order a transfer of ownership or sale of property that a spouse owns.

If you have a question about separate support, contact our divorce attorneys today at (888) 874-2142. A member of our legal team is standing by to answer your questions!

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