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What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?

Ending a marriage is not a decision that anyone should take lightly. When you file for divorce, the financial and emotional effect on the rest of your life is immediate and far-reaching. Because it is so important to be sure that the marriage is irretrievably broken before initiating divorce, New York law supports an alternative known as legal separation.

Legal separation explained

Legal separation is an agreement whereby you and your spouse live apart while remaining married. It is similar to divorce in that you have to come to an agreement or have a judge rule on matters like-

Because the marriage remains intact legally, you and your spouse are still covered by one another’s health insurance and there are no negative impacts on your personal taxes. Legal separation is also a preferred option for couples who prefer to not undergo divorce for religious reasons.

If you opt for legal separation, having legal counsel is still recommended. Even if you are on good terms with your spouse and agree with him or her on all important issues surrounding the separation, having an attorney on your side will ensure that the separation agreement is fair and legally binding.

Divorce

Sometimes legal separation is preparation for a formal dissolution of the marriage. After a couple lives apart for at least a year in New York, one or both parties may file for divorce.

State law recognizes seven valid reasons for divorce. They are:

  • Irretrievable breakdown in the the marriage for at least six months (otherwise known as a no-fault divorce)
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Abandonment
  • One spouse has been imprisoned for three or more consecutive years
  • Adultery
  • Legal separation
  • Judgment of separation

Like legal separation, you and your spouse can come to your own agreement regarding property division, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal maintenance, and division of marital debt. If you can’t or the divorce is contentious, a judge will make these determinations after taking into account the best interests of the children, your respective financial statuses, the duration of the marriage, and your pre-divorce style of living. This is definitely a time when you want a legal counsel to explain your options, help guide your decisions and advocate for your best interests.

Legal separation and divorce are both complicated, given all of the arrangements that must be made and settled as well as the potential for the situation to become contentious. An experienced New York family law attorney can help you navigate this financially and emotionally challenging time in your life so that you can face the future with the resources you need to move forward. Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx, NY divorce lawyer who has been offering compassionate legal representation to members of the community for more than 34 years. Call 718-329-9500 to set up a free in-person consultation with Mr. Lutzky or visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com to learn more.

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