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In Massachusetts, is separate support like the same thing as a divorce?  f(Posted by Wego on The Forum.)
 
Editor's Response:
 

No. When one party to a marriage (or a guardian of a minor child) files an action for separate support, she is not seeking to end the marriage, but alleging that the other spouse has the ability to support her or the family but is not doing so. If she is successful, the court will order her spouse to honor his duties to support her or the family while the marriage continues. Note that, although one or both parties can later file for divorce, a separate support action does not allow them to remarry until and unless they do. Also, you cannot file an action an action for separate support if you have an action for annulment or divorce pending.
 
If you currently live apart from your spouse, you should file your action for separate support in either the Probate and Family Court or the District Court for where you live. If you are physically separated from your spouse, you must file the action in the Probate and Family Court. There is no filing fee.
 
To prevail, you must prove one of three grounds: (1) That your spouse has failed to provide sufficient support; (2) that your spouse has deserted you; or (3) That you have justifiable cause to leave and live apart from you spouse (even though you are currently living together).
 
Finally, although in a separate support action the judge can deal with such issues as custody of children, spousal support, and even restraining orders, property division and the thorny issue of marital debts must wait for a divorce or some other legal resolution.

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