Choosing the Best Option for Your Family
For many couples who are unhappy in their marriage, divorce is simply not an option. Going separate ways and cutting all ties is not only a daunting prospect, but can also be damaging to any children that the two parties have together, or to financial and business assets that have been built during the marriage. Fortunately for some, there is a possible alternative to divorce in the state of New York—legal separation.
What Is Legal Separation?
In New York State, “legal separation” is defined as two spouses who live separately according to a contract that is mutually agreed upon by both parties. In a helpful document, the New York State Unified Court System explains legal separation as follows:
“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 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.”
The key difference between legal separation and divorce is that a legal separation cannot be decided for you by a family law judge—it must be a mutual agreement that is drafted and entered into voluntarily by both spouses.
Benefits of Legal Separation
Legal separation agreements are good options for couples who have children, share a high net worth, are business partners, or are otherwise strongly connected even though their marriage has come to an end.
Compared to divorce, legal separation could help you prevent:
- Heated courtroom litigation
- Messy division of property, assets, and debts
- Court-decided custody and visitation
- Court-decided child support and alimony
Legal separation gives you and your partner the reigns in deciding how you want to go about living your separate lives. You will remain legally married, but have full control over how your personal belongings are distributed, how your financial assets are divided, who has the kids when, and how much child and/or spousal support is paid per month (if any). YOU DECIDE. Not the court.
How Legal Separation Differs from Divorce
Litigation is not always necessary in a divorce. You can get a divorce through mediation or collaborative law that allows you to work out your divorce terms on your own. So how is legal separation any different?
The difference is that you will still be legally married to your spouse and be able to maintain the benefits that marriage involves. When you are legally separated, you will still benefit from:
- Healthcare benefits
- Social Security benefits
- Military spouse benefits
- Tax breaks
Divorce, whether contested or uncontested, will dissolve your marriage and therefore make you ineligible for any of the above benefits as pertaining to married individuals. Legal separation does not do this.
Need Help Deciding Which Path to Take? Call a Westchester County Family Lawyer.
Friedman & Friedman PLLC, Attorneys at Law is a seasoned family law firm that has helped many families and individuals across Westchester County. If you are unsure whether to pursue a legal separation agreement or a divorce, then Andrea Friedman and Sari Friedman are here to help you. Call us today at (914) 873-4410 to set up your initial consultation and take that first step toward your new life.
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