A legal separation allows a married couple to lead separate lives as if they were divorced, while remaining legally married. For most couples, a legal separation eventually leads to a divorce or an annulment. However, for some, that separation period is the time that they need to work out their issues and decide that they don’t actually want to end their marriage. If you’ve been legally separated but are ready to reconcile, you can reverse your legal separation and return to a “joint” status as a married couple. Here’s how to do it.
Ensure You’re Both on Board
The first thing you must do is ensure that both you and your spouse genuinely want to remain married. Both of you will have to agree to return to your joint status to reverse your separation. So, sit down together (with a counselor or mediator, if necessary) and work out whether or not this is the right thing for both of you. If you’re both confident that you’ve settled the issues that led to your separation and want to remain a couple, you can move forward.
File a Motion
Next comes the paperwork. You’ll first need to obtain a copy of the original Order of Legal Separation. If you don’t already have one from when you first separated, you can request one from the clerk at the family court where you filed for your separation. If there is no order, then we have good news: You were never legally separated and can simply return to your lives as a couple.
Next, draft a Motion to Vacate Order of Legal Separation. You should include a caption for the legal separation matter at the top of the motion, along with the docket number, then continue your motion underneath the caption. Your motion should state that you both no longer wish to be legally separated, have reconciled with one another, and that your marriage has not been dissolved (meaning that neither of you filed for divorce). You will both then need to sign the motion.
Be sure to review the rules for motions in your jurisdiction to ensure that yours is filed properly; your motion can be rejected if it is not completed correctly.
Draft an Order
At the bottom of your motion, you’ll need to draft an Order to Vacate Order of Legal Separation. Essentially, you’re writing in a space for the judge to approve your motion. It doesn’t need to be detailed. Something as simple as, “The above-entitled action is ordered vacated,” then leave a space for the judge to sign and date it.
File Your Paperwork
Now that your Motion and Order to Vacate are drafted, it’s time to file them. Submit them to the clerk of the family court where the legal separation was filed. Make sure to include the copy of your original Order of Legal Separation with it when you file. You will need to pay a filing fee at the time of filing, and your motion will not be accepted without it.
All of the paperwork mentioned above can be obtained and filed in one visit to the appropriate family court.
Attend the Hearing
Next, you’ll be given a hearing date for your separation. Both you and your spouse must attend the hearing to have the separation order vacated. Simply attend the scheduled hearing, and you both can testify in court that you wish to cancel your legal separation. So long as your paperwork is in order and you both agree that you wish to remain married in front of the judge, your legal separation will be reversed, and you will be considered a joint, married couple again.
Getting Assistance with Your Separation
While a legal separation is not a divorce, many of the same issues can arise during the separation process. If you’re considering a separation, be sure to work with a divorce attorney so that you can protect your rights and your property. And if you and your spouse do decide to reverse your legal separation, we can also help you to complete the necessary paperwork to ensure it’s done properly so your motion will be accepted.
At Harr Law, we have decades of experience handling divorces, annulments, and separations. If you’re unhappy in your marriage, contact us. We’ll work with you to find ways to protect your assets and advise you on what the best course of action might be—whether that’s a separation, annulment, or divorce. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced divorce attorneys.