As a Long Island Divorce Attorney with many years of practice in this field, many clients come to our Family Law firm seeking to learn more about Legal Separation. A Legal Separation is a very important option that should be discussed with your attorney before moving forward with your legal proceedings.
What is a Legal Separation & How Does it Work on Long Island?
A Legal Separation is an alternative to the common No-Fault Divorce. A Legal Separation is much less formal and is usually completed with little to no involvement by courts on Long Island. Rather, the parties enter into a legally binding contract, known as a Separation Agreement, and agree to live by the terms of that agreement. The agreement is negotiated and drafted by your Divorce Attorney and, when complete, is then filed with the Long Island court in the county in which you reside.
The terms of a Separation Agreement typically include all those that would be included in your Stipulation of Settlement had you gone through with a No-Fault Divorce. These terms include:
- Child support
- Distribution of marital property (such as the marital residence, automobiles and bank accounts)
- Distribution of pension and/or retirement plans
- Child custody and parenting time
- Settlement and responsibility of debt
The Benefits of a Legal Separation on Long Island
One of the most appealing benefits of a Separation Agreement to some couples is that if you and your spouse reconcile during the period in which you are living under a Separation Agreement, the agreement can be invalidated. Rather than going through a Long Island divorce and officially ending your marriage, the Separation Agreement acts as a sort of “hold”. It can easily be converted into a divorce or invalidated so that you and your spouse can move forward in your marriage.
Another very appealing benefit to a Legal Separation concerns health care coverage for both spouses. After a divorce is finalized, ex-spouses are not covered under most employers’ health insurance plans. However, if you are not divorced, but are rather living pursuant to a Separation Agreement, you are not an ex-spouse so you can still be covered under most health insurance plans. There has been no final divorce decree so, technically speaking, you are still married. This allows both spouses to remain under the same health insurance, if employers’ insurance package allows such an arrangement.
Yet another benefit to countless Long Island couples is the ramifications, or lack thereof, with regards to Social Security benefits. Again, because you and your spouse are still legally married, you are considered married for the purposes of those benefits. The Social Security Administration allows a married person to collect their spouse’s benefits once the earning spouse begins to collect his or her benefits. This is vastly different from the requirements in place to allow a divorced person to collect their ex-spouse’s benefits. If you have divorced the earning (now ex-) spouse, your marriage has to have lasted at least ten years in order for you to collect Social Security benefits. For a lot of couples, they may strategically live under a Separation Agreement for an amount of time that allows the marriage to reach the 10- year mark.
Considering Legal Separation? Contact our Long Island Divorce & Family Law Office Today
If you are considering a Legal Separation, or have more questions about the process, please give our Divorce and Family Law firm a call at 631-923-1910 and schedule a free consultation. Before engaging in a Legal Separation, it is important to discuss your options, and the ramifications of your decision, with an experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney.
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