What Is Legal Separation?

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Legal separation is a legal term of art. It is a distinct legal process and not a speedier or more efficient way of obtaining a divorce. In fact, one of the defining characteristics of legal separation is that a divorce cannot be granted for at least a year until after the legal separation has occurred. Family courts in Kentucky are permitted to enter decrees of legal separation, rather than decrees of dissolution of marriage, if one of the spouses requests entry in that form and the other spouse does not object. KRS 403.140(2). The court must find that the court has jurisdiction, that certain conciliation provisions have been met or are inappropriate, that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and that the court has considered matters of property division, maintenance, custody, and child support over which it has jurisdiction. KRS 403.140(1). After these findings are made, the court can grant the couple a decree of legal separation—a distinct status from being married or single, wherein, some incidents of marriage are not eliminated. For example, unless they are waived in a separation agreement, the survivor of a spouse should be able to claim dower or curtesy rights.

Only in rare circumstances is legal separation an effective solution. If you believe legal separation would benefit you, you may want to consult with an attorney before proceeding.

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