While some people in New York State file for divorce when they want to end their marriage, others opt for a less-permanent solution by legally separating. Although plenty of couples who choose legal separation over divorce don’t have any reconciliation plans, others may try to work it out and get back together at a later date.
Here are several key facts you should know about legal separation in New York State:
It’s not the same as a divorce.
There are some similarities to legally separating and getting divorced. For instance, both cases involve couples who no longer wish to live together. However, as previously noted, these are two completely different avenues.
The main difference between legal separation and divorce is that the former doesn’t actually dissolve the marriage in the eyes of the law, while the latter does. As a result, if you’re legally separated, you cannot marry someone else, and you may still be responsible for any financial issues your spouse has, depending on whether such details were discussed in the separation agreement. This brings us to our next point.
You aren’t legally separated if neither party signed any paperwork.
If you move out of the home you share with your spouse, it makes you separated—but not legally separated. While the legal separation process isn’t the same as the divorce process, an agreement still needs to be reached between the two parties.
As explained by the New York State Unified Court System: “A Separation Agreement is a contract between you and your spouse, where you both agree to the following: live separate and apart, who is responsible for paying what bills, whom the children will live with, if child support will be paid, what visitation arrangements will be, what happens to the marital property, or anything else you want to include.”
Typically, you would have a lawyer who practices family and marital law write up the agreement to ensure it includes all the aforementioned information. Access to a knowledgeable and experienced legal representative would be beneficial in other ways, too, especially for those involved in more “complicated cases,” in which factors such as pensions, debts, child custody arrangements and real estate need to be addressed.
The Court System continues: “Since a poorly worded agreement can have serious unexpected consequences for the parties, particularly in complicated cases, it is strongly recommended that you seek an attorney’s advice and assistance.”
For the agreement to officially go into effect, both parties need to sign the documents, which “must be acknowledged in the presence of a notary public although both don’t have to appear before the notary at the same time, or even use the same notary,” adds the Court. You then have the option of filing the agreement at the County Clerk’s office.
Once the last step is complete, you and your spouse must adhere to the agreement in place, just like any other legal document you sign.
Sunshine & Feinstein, LLP is a family law and divorce firm located in Garden City, New York. We aim to help our clients with various aspects of divorce and legal separation, such as child custody and support, spousal maintenance, property division, and modifications, among others. Schedule a consultation with us today so we can evaluate your case.
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