Should You Legally Separate Before Divorce?
Many people have the misconception that you need to legally separate before you get divorced. Legal separation is an option in New York, but it’s not required. Here’s what to know about legal separation and whether it might work for you.
What is legal separation?
Legal separation formally divides your assets and creates an agreement regarding custody and support issues. The process is similar to divorce, but you’ll remain married until you file for and finalize a divorce.
People may choose legal separation as they’re working out serious issues, or to divide assets while remaining married for religious or healthcare reasons. If they decide to divorce, the separation agreement can be incorporated into the divorce paperwork, which saves time and money.
How can I get a legal separation?
In New York, you can file an “action for separation” in court. The process is very similar to a divorce hearing, in which issues like custody, asset division and support are decided. At the end, you’ll still be married, but get a Judgement of Separation.
The preferred way, however, is for both parties to enter into a Separation Agreement. This is a legally binding contract that has the same effect as a Judgement of Separation. The difference is that you don’t need to go to court and have a hearing—as long as you can come to an agreement.
Ultimately, however, you’re not required to be legally separated from your spouse before you can divorce them. If you have no hope for the relationship, it may be better to proceed with divorce.
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