Manhattan Legal Separation Attorneys
During a legal separation, spouses stop living together, but they voluntarily follow a certain living arrangement. If the agreement is violated, New York’s family court may enforce it. Unlike divorce, a legal separation does not end a marriage, and couples choose separation over divorce for various reasons, such as:
- Uncertainty over whether divorce is the right option
- An inability to afford a divorce
- Financial benefits such as health coverage through a spouse’s employer-sponsored plan
It’s important to remember that a legal separation involves more than moving out of the marital home. If a couple wants to separate, they need a lawyer’s help in drafting a legal separation agreement.
How Long Will a Legal Separation Go On?
A couple can remain legally separated for however long they choose. However, if there are plans to use the separation agreement as the basis for a divorce, the spouses must live apart and follow the terms of the agreement for at least a year.
Does the State of New York Have a Residency Requirement for a Legal Separation?
The answer to this question is a bit complex. There’s no residency requirement if, when the agreement is filed, both spouses are New York residents and the reasons for the legal separation arose in the state. Otherwise, these requirements must be met:
- At least one spouse has lived in New York for two years before filing, or
- At least one person has lived in New York for one year before filing and the marriage occurred in the state, or the couple lived in the state during the marriage, or the reason for the separation occurred in the state
Consult a Manhattan divorce attorney to learn more about the criteria for legal separation.
What is a Legal Separation Agreement?
Separation agreements are written contracts between spouses that outline each person’s responsibilities and rights during the time they live apart. Typically, these include the division of assets and debts, the payment or receipt of child support, and matters of child custody and visitation. A legal separation cannot occur without the written agreement, and the family court will not force an agreement upon a couple. Spouses should consult local divorce attorneys who can help them create binding separation agreements.
Next Steps After the Agreement is Created
After the separation agreement has been written, it must be signed, notarized, and filed with the County Clerk. Once the agreement has been filed with the Clerk, the process has concluded and the separation is legitimized.
Is a Legal Separation the Right Choice?
There are benefits and drawbacks to a legal separation, and it might not be the right choice for every couple. First, the pros:
- It provides each spouse the time and space to decide whether they want a divorce
- It allows the couple to receive marriage counseling
- A spouse can still use the other spouse’s health coverage
- Years spent in legal separation count toward the receipt of a spouse’s Social Security benefits
- It does not typically violate religious beliefs
- The agreement may be used as the basis for a divorce
Now, the drawbacks:
- A legal separation doesn’t end the marriage, and logistical, legal, and financial ties will still exist between the spouses.
- The agreement is worthless unless signed by both spouses.
- If spouses can’t get along, they may find it hard to create an agreement.
- A person cannot marry another during a legal separation.
- It’s not a good option if abuse is present in the marriage.
- Spouses must wait one year before using the agreement as grounds for a divorce.
These are just a few points for spouses to consider. For case-specific legal advice, contact a Manhattan divorce attorney with legal separation experience.
I’ve Gone Through a Legal Separation, But Now I Want to Divorce. What Should I Do?
If you want your divorce’s terms to mirror those of your separation agreement, request a conversion divorce, which is based on an existing agreement. In these cases, the judge includes the terms of the separation agreement in the divorce decree. However, you’ll have to live apart from your spouse for at least a year, and you’ll have to follow the agreement’s terms closely. Consult a Manhattan divorce lawyer for more details.