Grounds for Legal Separation

Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC
Does your state recognize your reason for legal separation?

The grounds for legal separation vary between states, but some of the reasons for separation from your spouse are the same in all states.

Common Grounds for Legal Separation

Knowing the grounds for legal separation will help you prepare your case so you can quickly get the paperwork completed and start the process towards divorce. While not all of the following reasons for legal separation are valid in all states, it will help you start thinking about your defense.

  • Adultery

Your spouse had an extra-marital affair.

  • Imprisonment

Your spouse is sent to prison for a certain amount of years (time of imprisonment for justification of legal separation depends on the state).

  • Consanguinity

After marriage, you find out that you and your spouse are closely related.

  • Bigamy

You find out that your spouse is still married, whether it is because he or she did not dissolve a marriage or lied and said the person died.

  • Unsound Mind

The person was not of a sound mind when you got married (example of this is being intoxicated) or has a mental illness that affects his or her ability to stay in the marriage.

  • Neglect

The spouse does not support the family in any way.

  • Desertion

Your spouse has left you and has no intent on returning.

  • Domestic violence

Harm or threat to harm a spouse. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse are grounds for legal separation.

  • Fraud

You find out the person only married you for a specific reason such as getting into the United States or take money from you.

  • Impotence

You find out that your spouse cannot have children and you want children.

  • Physical incapacity

Your spouse is unable or does not want to have sexual relations with you.

  • Sexual transmitted disease

Your husband or wife has transmitted a sexual disease to you intentionally or unknowingly.

  • Unreasonable behavior

Some states will allow legal separation for unreasonable behavior, which is determined on a case-by-case basis. Unreasonable behavior refers to behavior that either spouse cannot live with any longer.

Your State and Legal Separation

There are a number of ways for you to find out the grounds your state considers valid for legal separation. Contact a lawyer or the court system to acquire a list or ask about your situation. You can also use the Internet by searching for legal separation in your state.

Preparing Your Defense

When you appear before the judge, you will have to present proof of your reasons for a legal separation. You want to make sure you have what you need so you can convince the judge that you need a legal separation from your spouse. Collect paperwork for anything that has to do with what you will present. If you are victim of domestic violence and have a restraining order, this would be extremely helpful. If your spouse had an affair, any proof such as credit card bills, private investigator data, or photographs would help your case. If there is a mental or physical cause for your desire for legal separation, include medical reports, if possible.

Using a lawyer to defend you can be helpful if your situation is a difficult one. Some people have it easy and both spouses agree to the separation. In other cases, only one spouse wants the legal separation so the other one has to work harder. A lawyer can help you gather proof and present it to the judge, which may improve your chances of the judge ruling in your favor.


Separating from your spouse is difficult and is probably something you never wanted to happen. However, when your happiness and well-being are at stake it may be the only choice you have. Stay strong and understand that your reasons for the split are legitimate.

Grounds for Legal Separation