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What is a legal separation in New York?

On Behalf of | Jan 13, 2022 | Family Law |

Many New York couples find themselves in a twilight zone between preserving their marriage and getting divorced. Most of these couples are familiar with the concept of ending their marriage via a legal divorce, but many of these couples are unaware of an alternative that may serve their family and emotional states much better: a legal separation.

The concept

A legal separation is a written agreement between spouses in which they agree to live separately. The separation agreement also contains provisions regarding temporary possession of various assets, child custody, support and alimony and other pertinent aspects of defining the new living arrangement.

The details

While the concept of a legal separation is easy to comprehend, an agreement that satisfies the law in New York is not easy to create. The agreement must be in writing, signed by both spouses, with each signature having been notarized. Most importantly, the separation agreement must state that the spouses will live separately at all times. This provision is important if the couple plans to use the separation as the grounds for a later-filed divorce petition. Most other options are optional to one degree or another. The agreement can require one of the spouses to pay support to the other. Likewise, the agreement can provide for custody of any minor children and for payment of child support to the custodial spouse. The agreement must spell out which spouse will pay recurring monthly expenses, such as heat, electricity and food.

Once the agreement is completed and signed by each spouse, it should be filed with the proper clerk of court. At that point, the document becomes legally binding, and either spouse can ask the court to enforce it or penalize the other spouse for a violation.

Pros and cons

Anyone who is considering a divorce may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney for advice on the pros and cons. A knowledgeable lawyer can evaluate the couple’s situation and offer advice on whether a legal separation agreement will serve the couple’s needs.