When Is Legal Separation a Good Option for Married Couples?

Published On: March 24, 2023Categories: Divorce

Rockland County Legal Separation Lawyer

Legal separation may be an option when a married couple is considering changing their relationship, but the spouses are not yet ready to commit to a divorce. Legal separation offers many of the same protections as divorce—including legally binding decisions about the division of assets, spousal support, and child custody—while allowing for reconciliation or divorce. It can be a great way for spouses to test out their feelings about dissolution without deciding to legally dissolve their marriage. By understanding what legal separation entails, the procedures that must be followed, and the rights that apply to them, spouses can determine whether this may be a good option or whether divorce may be preferable.

Getting a Legal Separation in New York

In New York State, legal separations must be authorized by a court order or a written agreement signed by both spouses. A spouse can choose to file for a legal separation, which is similar to filing a divorce petition. When doing so, they will generally need to provide a stated reason or grounds for the split. The grounds allowed include cruel and inhuman treatment by the other spouse, abandonment, refusal of one spouse to provide financial support for the other spouse or the family, adultery, or one party serving a prison sentence for at least three years.

Once a separation case begins, a couple will need to address many of the same issues that they would during a divorce. They will need to determine how their assets and debts will be divided. If they have children, they will need to determine child custody arrangements. These will include legal custody, which addresses how they will make decisions about raising their children, as well as physical custody, which details where children will live and when they will see or spend time with both parents. Child support may be another factor to ensure that parents are sharing the costs of raising their children. In some cases, spousal maintenance orders may be created that will require one spouse to provide financial support to the other.

Once all issues have been decided, a separation agreement may be authorized by the court, or a court may issue a separation decree that addresses any outstanding issues. While the spouses will be legally obligated to follow the terms of a separation agreement or separation decree, they will continue to be legally married. At any point in the future, the couple may choose to reconcile, and their separation agreement or decree may be reversed. Either spouse may also choose to file for divorce and legally terminate their marriage. In these situations, the decisions made in a separation agreement or decree may be incorporated into a divorce decree or judgment.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Legal Separation Vs. Divorce

Legal separations can offer couples certain advantages that divorces do not provide—namely, that they can always reunite at some point down the line. They may be able to take advantage of some benefits as a married couple, such as insurance coverage on a family plan or being able to file taxes jointly. This arrangement may also be preferable for couples who wish to stay married for religious or cultural reasons, even if they no longer live together. However, while either spouse can begin a new relationship, they will not be able to get married to a new partner until they complete a divorce from their current spouse.

Contact Our Rockland County Legal Separation Lawyer

A legal separation can be beneficial if you need time apart from your spouse but are unsure about dissolving your marriage. At Law Offices of Robert S. Lewis, P.C., our Hudson Valley family law attorney can advise you of your options regarding legal separation, we will work with you to reach agreements that will protect your rights and interests as you live separately from your spouse. Contact our office at 845-358-7100 to discuss these issues in a free consultation and get started with the process of legal separation or divorce.