Legal Separation: Is it the Right Option for You?

When you think of terms that relate to divorce, sometimes the phrase “legal separation” comes to mind.  While many people may understand that a legal separation means they will no longer be with their partner, there can be confusion as to what assuming this status will mean.

For New York couples who are contemplating divorce, a legal separation may very well be a good option.  However, it is important to examine some key points regarding legal separation in order to answer the question of whether or not it is the right option for you.

What is Legal Separation?

In New York, married couples who do not wish to continue living together have the option of filing with a court or agreeing to a legal separation. Unlike simply moving into separate homes, a legal separation allows the couple to formally arrange their separate lives, decide who will pay which bills, divide property, and establish their joint responsibilities such as child and spousal support.

How Can You Become Legally Separated?

To obtain a legal separation you typically have two options: 1) enter into a separation agreement with your spouse that is executed with a certain degree of formality; or 2) have the court issue a judgment of separation.  Entering into a separation agreement requires that the parties agree on certain key terms, include specific language in the agreement, and sign and have the document acknowledged.  This is the form that most people choose.  The other option, having a court issue a separation agreement, involves one person suing the other for separation and then the court deciding the terms of the separation.  This choice is extremely rare and requires much of the labor and expense of divorce.

Who Would Benefit from Legal Separation?

In some cases, couples may find that while they no longer want to live together, they do not want to deprive their partner of important benefits such as medical insurance.  Legal separation is a good choice for a couple in this situation.  This is due to the fact that while legal separation allows the couple to live apart, it does not require that medical coverage end for either spouse under a single-family policy.  In contrast, divorce requires that a divorced spouse no longer be covered under their former spouse’s insurance policy.

Separation may also be a positive option for couples who are considering divorce but do not wish to start the divorce process, as it will allow them to experience what their lives will be like after divorce.  Additionally, entering into a separation will require the couple to come to an agreement concerning several important decisions such as the division of their property, custody of minor children, child support, and possibly alimony.  These decisions and many others will have to be made in the event of divorce.  By negotiating these terms beforehand, the couple may have an easier time entering into agreements concerning their divorce terms.

It can also be an alternative for those who are opposed to divorce for religious or moral reasons. By legally separating a couple who wishes to remain married for these reasons would be free to live separately while adhering to their beliefs.

Separation can be an excellent alternative to divorce in some cases.  However, it is important to discuss your options. Contact us to speak to an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney in order to determine if legal separation is right for you.

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