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Can I marry someone else if we’ve been separated for a long time?

October 5, 2017

When you’ve been separated for a long time, living in separate homes and leading separate lives, it can often feel like you’re already divorced. You may even be dating again, and if you’re seriously dating someone, it’s easy to start thinking about a future with your new partner.

But separated and divorced are two separate things, and it’s important that you don’t do something that could get you into major legal hot water.

Difference between separation and divorce

If you are separated, you are still married. You may be leading separate lives, with separate finances, homes, and plans for the future, but you are still married to each other. You still have all the legal obligations of a married couple. Emotionally, you may feel like the marriage is over, but it is not.

Divorce is the official, legal end of a marriage. When you are divorced, you are no longer married to your spouse and have no further legal obligations beyond any court orders regarding child or spousal support, or any debts that were assigned to you in the divorce.

Is there such a thing as common law divorce?

Some people mistakenly believe that if they live separately for a certain amount of time that they are automatically divorced. This is not the case. You could live separated from your spouse for the rest of your life, but until you file for and are granted a legal divorce, you are still married to your spouse.

This is why it’s important to file for and proceed with a divorce, if you truly do not want to be married to your spouse any longer.

When can I remarry?

As long as you are only separated, you cannot get married without committing a crime. That crime is called bigamy and it is a Class E felony in New York. This means it’s punishable by more than a year in prison.

Once your divorce is final, you are free to remarry. You will be required to list your marriage history, including the full name of your former spouse, the date the divorce was finalized, and the city and state in which it was granted in order to get a marriage license. You may also be asked to produce the divorce decree. Therefore, it is very important that you do not attempt to begin this process before your divorce is final.

If you are dating, and considering marrying your new partner, but are not divorced, it is important that you hire a lawyer and begin the divorce process. The sooner you begin the process, the sooner it will be complete, and you can get on with your life. It’s also important to get your divorce complete so that you can ensure that your new partner is fully informed of any support obligations or debts you may be dealing with as a result of your divorce before they agree to marry you. You don’t want another divorce because your new spouse feels you deceived them.

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