What Should I Do If My Wife Files for Legal Separation?

Ask a Lawyer


My wife is filing for legal separation — what should I do and what role would your firm play in working / advising me on the potential separation? Also, she makes about twice as much as I do, how would that impact alimony?

Christine Dolan
New Jersey divorce attorney Christine Dolan


In New Jersey, where I am licensed to practice, our courts do not recognize legal separations. From a practical standpoint, often times we have clients who are not prepared to file for divorce but wish to separate from their spouse.

Under those circumstances, we would help our client negotiate and execute a marital settlement agreement which would be held in abeyance until either party decides to move forward and file the complaint for divorce. The marital settlement agreement would resolve issues pertaining to child custody and parenting time, alimony and equitable distribution.

In my state, executing an agreement before the filing of the divorce complaint serves to expedite the divorce proceedings since all of the issues relative to the divorce have already been resolved.

It is very difficult for us to predict the cost of preparing an agreement. This is due to the uncertainty of knowing whether the other side is amenable to negotiating in good faith. In my experience, I have represented many men who believe he and his spouse are in agreement on all of the economic issues. However, the process can become protracted once the wife has retained counsel.

With regard to your question pertaining to alimony, in my state, alimony takes into consideration 13 factors, which we need to be able to argue.  These factors are as follows:

  1. The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
  2. The duration of the marriage;
  3. The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
  4. The standard of living established in the marriage and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living;
  5. The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
  6. The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
  7. The parental responsibilities for the children;
  8. The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income;
  9. The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
  10. The equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair;
  11. The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
  12. The tax treatment and consequence to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment; and
  13. Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.

It is difficult for me to render an opinion on whether you would be entitled to receive alimony from your wife without reviewing the pertinent financial documentation (i.e., income tax returns, W2 statements for you and your wife, as well as pay stubs for both you and your wife). Further, since I am not licensed to practice in Indiana, I am not familiar with the state’s alimony laws so I do not know how alimony is calculated in Indiana.

Alimony and separation agreements can be very complicated. Therefore, you should seek the advice of a skilled divorce attorney who can explore all of your legal options and rights with you. Cordell and Cordell have attorneys who are licensed to practice in Indiana who would be happy to discuss your case with you.

Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than general divorce tips, so please consult a domestic litigation attorney in your area to obtain specific advice as to the laws in your state and how they impact your potential case.

To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including New Jersey divorce lawyer Christine Dolan, contact Cordell & Cordell.

End of Content Icon

Leave a Reply