A legal separation is an option for couples that no longer want to live together but wish to stay married for various reasons, ranging from religious expectations to tax benefits. A legal separation requires a court order that lists the responsibilities of each spouse. However, Massachusetts does not call this process legal separation. Rather, those who wish to separate in Massachusetts can file a complaint for separate support.
Obtain and complete a complaint for separate support form. This form is available from the Probate and Family Court in your county. It also is available for download from the website for The Massachusetts Court System.
Gather supporting documents. The required documents are a copy of the marriage certificate, an affidavit of care and custody for any children from the marriage and financial statements. The "Child Support Guidelines Worksheet" and the Financial Statement form (short or long form) are available for download from The Massachusetts Court System website.
File the "Complaint for Separate Support” form with the court clerk at the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Department in your county. Also, file a certified copy of your marriage certificate, the affidavit of care and support for your children and the applicable fee. Visit the website for The Massachusetts Court System for a list of Probate and Family courts by county.
Wait for the court to issue a summons to you. The summons, which is directed to the defendant, will include the name and address of the parties, the name and address of the plaintiff's attorney, if applicable, and the time when the defendant is expected to appear. The form also will inform the defendant that a failure to appear will result in a judgment for the plaintiff.
Serve the defendant. Deliver or mail the copy of the complaint and the summons to the Sheriff's department in the county where the defendant resides. The sheriff or deputy sheriff will serve a copy of the documents to the defendant, then mail the original copy of the summons back to you. The official will fill the back of the summons with a statement of service. File the summons with the court as proof of service.
File for a court hearing after submitting the summons. The judge will enter a judgment for separation at the end of the hearing.