Unlike many other states, Massachusetts has no formal process for legal separation. If a married couple wants to have a formal breakup, then their option is, generally speaking, to obtain a divorce.
Otherwise, a couple who wishes to separate, but still remain married, may be left with sorting out their financial affairs and even their child custody and support issues themselves. This is not always an ideal situation, but people often have moral, financial and legal or even emotional reasons for remaining married even if they choose to live apart.
Massachusetts does have a limited type of cause of action called separate support. Someone who asks for separate support must allege that their spouse has not provided support as he or she should and the couple either is living apart or would have good grounds to do so.
The reason separate support is a limited cause of action is that a person can use it primarily to obtain orders regarding custody, parenting time and child support. This type of case can also be used to establish alimony, and in the right circumstances it can even be used to compel a person to turn the deed to the family home. However, it may be quite difficult to use this type of request to divide other marital property or to determine who will pay the family's debts.
As mentioned, there are a lot of good reasons why a person may wish to take the route of separate support as opposed to an outright divorce. Those who feel like this option may be right for their situation should speak to an experienced family law attorney about the matter.