separation, in law, either the voluntary agreement of husband and wife to live apart or a partial dissolution of the marriage relation by court order. The marriage bond remains, and remarriage of either party is criminal. The separated parties will ordinarily be bound by the provisions of an agreement respecting the amount to be paid for separate maintenance and the adjustment of their property rights. Separation by court decree is a divorce a mensa et thora [from bed and board]; the parties are forbidden to live together, and the wife may have a right to alimony. The laws of the states of the United States vary greatly as to separation; generally, jurisdictions where divorce is difficult to obtain have a more lenient policy toward legal separation than do jurisdictions with easier divorce laws. The main grounds for legal separation are adultery, cruelty, and desertion.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.