Chandler legal separation attorney

Helping people in Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale, and other Phoenix Valley communities with legal separation and other family law issues

Is legal separation right for you in the event of a marital conflict? This can be a difficult question to answer. Legal separation may be suitable for some married couples facing relationship difficulties, but may be totally inappropriate for others. Only you and your spouse can properly answer that question. Regardless, the process can be as complicated as that of a divorce, so it’s critical that you have an experienced Chandler legal separation attorney by your side.

Definition of legal separation

You may be wondering: “Is this what happens when one of us moves out of the house?” No. That is physical separation, which has relevance in cases involving legal separation, divorce, and even unmarried partner or child custody proceedings, but is not itself a legal separation.

To legally separate, you or your spouse, or both of you jointly, must file a document with a court asking to be declared legally separated. This legal status gives both of you a time-out to decide what you want to do next: either get back together romantically, or get divorced.

In a legal separation, you get a decree. But do not misunderstand: This is not a decree of marital dissolution. It is a declaration of a temporary legal status that typically lasts for a year but can be shorter or longer depending on the actions and decisions of you and your spouse.

Physical separation as a requirement for legal separation

Intuitively, you would think that physical separation would be a requirement for legal separation. Interestingly, though, Arizona law is silent on whether the parties must be “living separate and apart,” the legal term of art for physical separation, to be considered legally separated.

If you are in a covenant marriage, though, physical separation can be important. In this situation, living under separate roofs voluntarily for at least two years can lead to legal separation. So can adultery; sexual, physical or emotional abuse of the other spouse, a child, or relative living in the marital household; abandonment for at least a year; drug or alcohol abuse; or other factors. Two years of physical separation, or the passage of one year after obtaining a legal separation decree, can lead to divorce.

Even with a regular marriage, to file for legal separation, at least one of you must have decided that “[t]he marriage is irretrievably broken or one or both of the parties desire to live separate and apart.”


During the legal separation, the court almost always refers the two of you to Conciliation Court. This is an arm of the court that offers marital counseling, mediation, and parent education classes. Be aware that any referral likely will be only for mediation—that is, to see whether you can agree on any of the decree terms—and/or a parenting and child custody review. It will not be for marital counseling.

If you think there is any chance you might want to try to reconcile, you should file for conciliation instead. Conciliation is a true cooling-off period of 60 days, with the possibility of renewal, that essentially puts on hold any possible filing or proceeding of an annulment, legal separation, or divorce. It includes a referral to Conciliation Court for a free session of marital counseling.

Legal separation and divorce

Regardless of the length of the legal separation or how far you are into it, a divorce filing ends a legal separation. Statistically, divorce is the most common ultimate outcome, and a legal separation is a tangible step in that direction. But a legal separation does not have to end in divorce. This is entirely up to you and your spouse.

You can look at it one of two ways: If you do get divorced down the road, legal separation is like a dry run that can prepare you for the divorce proceeding mentally and emotionally. The decrees are similar in terms of the items the court says must be addressed, including child custody, parenting time, child support, distribution of tax exemptions, spousal maintenance, and property and debt division. On the other hand, you could argue that you are just wasting time, money, and effort by going through what is nearly an identical process twice. Again, this is a decision for you and your spouse to make based on what is best for your family’s unique situation.

Contact a Chandler legal separation attorney

If you are thinking about filing for legal separation or have to respond to a petition for one, be sure to consult with an Arizona family law attorney who is knowledgeable in and has considerable expertise with legal separations. Do not go it alone.

Call Joan Bundy Law at 480.463.4600 to find out how an experienced Chandler legal separation attorney can help guide you through the complexities.

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Joan Bundy thoroughly investigated my case and always had time to listen to and address my concerns. She is and has been very organized and keeps up to date with details regarding my case. She also has taken swift action when it has been necessary.

C. matter

I initially talked with another firm (a large family practice here in Phoenix) and I just did not get the warm and fuzzy feeling that they were going to do everything I required. Joan certainly did and I am so glad I hired Joan for my issues.

S. H.spousal maintenance issue

I hired Joan to handle my divorce. Although the process itself was difficult, Joan made it much easier. She handled my case with compassion and professionalism.

S. P.divorce matter

She took the time to listen to me and even contacted me again after talking to other counsel on the matter; and all of this was just after our initial consultation. Luckily, the matter was resolved without going to court. Should I need legal counsel for this matter again, I will definitely have Joan represent me.

K. J.child custody matter

When we first met with the lawyer, she showed that she was very easy to talk to. She listened, gave us options, and did not come across stuffy.

K. M.child custody matter