Legal Separation Cost

How Much Does a Legal Separation Cost?

Last Updated on December 27, 2023
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

There is a wide variety of divorces in the United States. Depending on the scenario and position, and depending on the circumstances, it is the length of time the process takes that makes the difference.

Legal separation means that the law no longer requires the spouses to live together. The procedure that enables a married couple to legally separate does not cancel the marriage relationship, but it weakens it and can be done by a mutual agreement and recorded in the presence of a Public Notary.

During the separation process, the division of wealth must be made, and if there are minor children in the marriage, the custody and maintenance of the children and the former wife must be carried out. The course of the procedure depends on their economic situation, if this is precarious if they have health problems, or are an elderly person.

It is common for two spouses to no longer want to live under the same roof but without wanting to file for divorce. However, the obligations of marriage remain. Indeed, if divorce removes all the obligations that bind the former spouses, a legal separation does not dissolve the marriage.

What are the conditions for legal separation?

Legal separation, meaning separation by a court decision, acknowledges that the spouses can no longer live together and choose to live separately.

When this condition is satisfied, the spouses must file and sign for legal separation, and it will become legal as soon as it is notarized.

In exceptional circumstances, the court may also assign responsibility for the separation to one of the spouses. This has implications for the granting of the right to maintenance during the separation, as well as for inheritance rights. The prosecutor must take part in the legal action.

Legal separation by mutual agreement is based on an agreement between the spouses but is determined only after approval by the court, which is responsible for ensuring that the agreements reached by the spouses satisfy the superior interests of the family.

In particular, if an agreement on child custody and maintenance is not in the interests of the children, the court will again convene the parties and ask them to make the necessary changes. If the parties do not comply, the court may refuse to approve the separation. In these cases, both spouses will need an attorney.

How much does a legal separation cost?

The cost for filing for legal separation starts around $50 and goes to about $500, depending on the state where you are living and whether both parties agree and don’t contest the separation. For example, in New York, the filing fee for a separation petition is from $5 to $210.

This depends on the county you live in, as in New York City the filing fee is $210, while outside NYC it is just $5. After the procedure is legalized, each spouse will need to obtain a certification that will cost $8 apiece.

According to the Arizona Code of Judicial Administration, the filing fees for legal separation are approved by the Supreme Court and are as follows:

  • Petition for legal separation $234
  • Response or initial appearance in legal separation $159

There are cases when some issues need to be solved with the help of a lawyer like child custody, alimony, real estate, debts, etc. Hiring an attorney, in the US, can take the cost for a legal separation to around $50,000, but it ranges between $1,000 to $100,000, or even more, depending on the complexity of the case.

When both spouses agree on the decisions, like child custody for example, the price can be set at around $1,000, but when the decisions are highly contested the cost of a legal separation can go up to $100,000. Usually, an attorney will charge an average of $450 per hour.

Drafting a separation agreement cost

When the spouses do not agree or a more complicated issue appears, each of them will need to hire an attorney. In this case, each party will be responsible for their own legal fees. In general, the average price for drafting a separation agreement is around $775. An attorney will charge you for the following:

  • The time spent drafting the contract
  • The client meeting
  • The negotiating
  • The time spent editing and revising the contract

Reviewing a separation agreement cost

You might also like our articles on the cost of divorce, estate planning, or child support lawyer.

There are situations when the spouses draft their separation agreement themselves and choose to hire an attorney just to review the agreement. They will still pay the legal fees, but the attorney’s fee will be lower than for the drafting service, that’s around $600.

Factors that affect the cost of a legal separation

The final cost of legal separation will depend on several factors:

  • The location where you have your residence

In larger cities, the cost of legal separation will be much higher than in more rural areas or smaller cities. This is available for the attorney and other specialists, such as accountants and psychologists, that are needed in more complex cases, as the costs are influenced by the area’s cost of living. This is also due to the fact that in bigger cities there are more clients with a higher income and complicated legal issues.

  • Legal separation lawyer fees
  • Attorney’s fees are the most expensive costs in a legal separation or divorce.

The fee is based on his level of experience, degree of expertise, and even geographical location. Usually, they charge a fee per hour, and the price can go from $200 up to $700.

  • Third-party involvement fees

When a legal separation needs third-party involvement, this will definitely increase the cost. Expect to pay thousands more just for cases that need a child psychologist, accountant, real estate evaluator, and so on.

Reasons to choose legal separation

Legal Separation is Not DivorceLegal separation results from a decision authorizing the separate residence and the ending of the joint cohabitation of the spouses. In spite of all, the marital bond remains, because the spouses are not divorced.

The legal separation procedure is modeled on the divorce procedure and involves costs for the spouses.

Assisted by a lawyer, the spouses must apply to the family affairs judge of the high court of their place of residence and submit a request for the reason for their separation:

  1. legal separation by mutual consent;
  2. legal separation upon accepted request;
  3. legal separation for misconduct;
  4. legal separation for the dissolution of cohabitation.

The judge must also rule on the allocation of the family accommodation, as well as on the custody of the couple’s children if it is needed. In the latter case, it may provide for allocating the alimony to the spouse who has custody of the children, as in the context of divorce proceedings.

Despite the maintenance of marriage bonds, legal separation involves the end of the duties arising from the marriage, and in particular:

  • the duty of concubinage;
  • duty of loyalty;
  • duty to help.

According to US family laws, the decision of legal separation immediately involves the separation of the spouses’ property and the division of the community liquidation if the latter married under the legal regime or under the Community regime by contract.

Finally, you should know that if one of the spouses dies during the legal separation period, the surviving spouse will be entitled to inherit because he or she retains his or her rights in succession.

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