What Is Separation?
When a couple is having difficulties, and the relationship appears to be over, divorce is not the only option. Some couples find a great benefit in a legal separation rather than a full divorce.
Separation is a way of putting a relationship on “pause.” For many, it is a way of ending the relationship without officially ending the marriage. Separated people typically live apart and lead separate lives. They sometimes date others, even establishing fully committed relationships with someone new. Through it all, the couple is still legally married, even if they never see or communicate with one another.
In New York, a couple must write and submit a separation agreement before the courts make it official. In the agreement, you can make decisions about virtually any matter affecting the relationship. It can include details about money, support for both adults and children, child custody and visitation, living arrangements, and more. Many couples find it helpful to seek mediation when making these decisions. A neutral third party can help them make decisions that are beneficial to everyone.
There are no official, standardized separation agreements in New York. Therefore, it is important to seek help from a legal professional before submitting the forms. No matter how clear you both are on the terms, a simple miscalculation in legal language could lead to disaster. It could be misinterpreted by the courts, or it could be used against you by the other spouse. Make sure that you have someone look over your agreement, ensuring that it is solid and can withstand scrutiny. Your attorney can even help guide you in areas you overlooked, making the agreement even stronger.
After one year of separation, the couple can easily file for divorce. The terms of the separation agreement could be used as final orders in the divorce. This is another reason why you should seek an attorney when drafting it.
Looking at the information above, some may wonder why it would be reasonable to continue the marriage at all. Why not just get a divorce? There are, in fact, many advantages to keeping a marriage legal, if only on paper.
Depending on the people involved, it may be financially helpful to stay married. For example, spouses can continue to receive certain benefits. Military spouses are often protected financially. There may be tax benefits for one or both people by staying married, and one person can stay on the other’s health insurance. Marriage, at the end of the day, is a legal matter, and that involves finances.
Even today, many people are raised with traditional values. It may simply be too difficult for some to tell their families that they are divorced. At best, they could be met disappointment, which can hurt worse than direct punishment. At worst, they could be shunned by the family.
This is particularly true for those with strict religious beliefs or upbringings. Some people simply cannot go through with a divorce because it violates their sacred values. For these people, a separation may provide freedom from a bad relationship without sin.
Divorce is not always a mutual decision. There could be at least one person who is devastated by the very thought of divorcing their spouse. A separation can help satisfy both parties in such a relationship. Having distance can provide relief in an unhappy partner, and staying married can give comfort to the person who isn’t ready to give up.
Sometimes, both parties haven’t committed to ending the relationship. Maybe they both know that something needs to change, but they still need hope and a way to hang on. A legal separation can meet these needs, giving each person time apart while still working toward mending the broken relationship.
As mentioned above, time apart can help each person gain a new perspective. It can make them aware of their love for one another and cause them to continue their lives together. It could also make one or both people aware that the relationship really is over and help push them toward a divorce.
It may be difficult to think of divorce as a “benefit.” However, when a relationship is that far gone, divorce will ultimately be the best outcome. It is hard, and it can even be devastating. Eventually, though, each party will be free from an unhealthy situation and be able to have a brighter future.
If you need help with a legal separation, call our office today. With sensitivity, we can listen to your needs and help you along the process. Our number is (914) 312-4131, or you can reach us online.