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Massachusetts Legal Separation Laws

Going through a breakup from your spouse can be heart wrenching and often times embarrassing. The idea of a “divorce” may even be stigmatizing for some people and in some communities. Yet every year thousands of people decide they simply can’t stay together any longer for a variety of reasons, most often “irreconcilable differences.” This is where a legal separation may be of benefit to you and your spouse. While not the same as a formal divorce or summary dissolution, a legal separation offers many of the key benefits of a divorce, but doesn’t require you to obtain a final divorce decree.

Massachusetts is unique in that the state does not have legal separation laws in place to assist couples who are looking to formally declare the end of their relationship, but aren’t quite ready to take the final step of a divorce. Couples are free to “separate” informally, but they do not have the option of going to court to get a court order for this process.

Spousal Support and Separation

Simply put, if a couple wants to separate in Massachusetts, they can without needing any formal orders. However, either person may petition the court for spousal support, despite not getting a legal order for separation from the court. This action is best for people who want to live separately from their spouse but still want to remain married. Typically, this is used by people who have religious objections or financial burdens to divorce. You can do this by filing a “Complaint for Separate Support.” For more information on where to file your forms, check out the Massachusetts Court System website or consult a local attorney. 

Massachusetts Legal Separation Laws: Highlights

The following table lists the basics of legal separation laws in Massachusetts, or lack thereof, including how to request spousal support if you are technically separated from your partner.


Massachusetts Code § Chapter 208, Section 49 (Spousal Support)

Definition of Legal Separation

A legal separation is not available in Massachusetts.

Grounds for Legal Separation

Not applicable


Not applicable

Legal Separation Required for Divorce?


Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Massachusetts Legal Separation Laws: Related Resources

If you have additional questions about your legal separation or would simply like to do your own research, click on the links below to learn more.

Considering a Legal Separation? Talk to a Local Divorce Attorney First

If you and significant other aren’t ready to formally end your relationship, you can do so without going through the entire divorce process. Although a legal separation isn’t available in Massachusetts, you still have options. You can learn more from an experienced Massachusetts divorce lawyer today. Start the process with a seasoned professional; find a local divorce attorney today.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

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