No-Fault Divorce Reduces Legal Separation Agreements on Long Island But They Still Play Important Role for Many
In 2010, New York enacted a No-Fault Divorce statute that enables couples on Long Island to be granted a legal divorce without asserting fault on behalf of either party. Prior to this, couples had generally entered into what was known as a Legal Separation Agreement, prior to getting legally divorced. The Legal Separation Agreement allowed a couple a “trial period,” apart, before commencing official divorce proceedings without fault. Now that the legal separation agreement is no longer necessary to ensure a couple can achieve a no-fault divorce, many couples have opted to skip this step and begin official divorce proceedings right away.
Don’t Rush To Divorce on Long Island
Divorce is obviously a big step for any married couple. Most people seriously consider the possibility for a long time and do not take any steps toward divorce lightly. However, when at least one of the partners finally concludes that divorce is the only solution they are naturally inclined to proceed and achieve their divorced status as soon as possible. to promptly seek a divorce. While this is understandable, divorce is the finalized, conclusive end of the marriage, and there are some significant benefits to seeking a legal separation first that should be discussed with your divorce attorney before you proceed.
What is a Legal Separation Agreement?
A Legal Separation on Long Island is significantly less formal than an official divorce proceeding. There is usually little or no involvement of the Nassau County or Suffolk County Court system in a Legal Separation on Long Island. Instead, you and your partner enter into a contract with the help of your divorce attorney (keep in mind, that for the legal separation agreement to be binding, it must be filed with the court, but the court plays no role in its creation).
Legal Separation Agreements Determine Child Custody, Support, Expenses
Under the terms of this contract, which is a legally binding agreement, you and your spouse will likely agree to maintain separate residences, decide issues of child custody and support, and settle the responsibility of bills and other monthly expenses. Once both you and your partner sign the agreement, and it is notarized, the legal separation is official.
Legal Separation Does Not Always Lead to Divorce
However, just because you have a Legal Separation Agreement does not mean you are required to eventually divorce; if you and your partner find that the time apart has done good for your relationship, the separation agreement can be invalidated. Keep in mind though, that because you and your partner are still legally married under a separation agreement, neither of you can remarry during the agreement’s existence.
What are the Benefits of a Legal Separation Agreement?
One of the most important differences between a Legal Separation agreement and a divorce that a Legal Separation Agreement enables you to go back. If you choose to obtain a divorce, once it is finalized, it is permanent. If you and your partner have a change of heart, you will have to eventually remarry each other (if that is the path you choose to take).
Legal Separations are Reversible; Divorces Are Not
With a Legal Separation agreement however, the you and your spouse can invalidate the agreement so long as you resume the marital relationship in such a sense that would give rise to the presumption that you intended to abandon the separation agreement. This is a good option for couples who know they need time apart, but who are not 100 percent sure a divorce is the solution.
Consider Health Insurance Issues
A legal separation also has many financial benefits as opposed to a divorce decree, which may be helpful to couples wondering how one party will support him or herself after the divorce. First, and probably of the greatest significance to a large number of couples on Long Island concerns health insurance coverage. As you likely know, ex-spouses are not covered under most employers’ health insurance plans. However, if you are legally separated, you are not an “ex-spouse” and therefore, so long as the specific insurance plan provides for such, coverage can still be extended (be sure to check with your employer or your partner’s employer, whoever’s coverage used, as each insurance package differs).
Consider Your Social Security Standing
Furthermore, because a legal separation is not the equivalent to a divorce, you and your partner are still legally married for the purposes of Social Security benefits. Under the system set up by the Social Security Administration, a married person cannot collect spousal benefits before the earner has collected his or her benefits. However, in order for a divorced spouse to collect any type of Social Security benefits from the earner, the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years. Therefore, couples may chose to remain legally separated until they hit the 10-year mark, and then obtain a divorce so the beneficiary can take advantage of greater social security benefits. If you find yourself in this position, be sure to discuss with your divorce attorney the specific ramifications regarding Legal Separation and Social Security benefits.
Have Questions About Divorce & Separation Agreements on Long Island, NY?
Before making a final decision about Divorce or Legal Separation on Long Island, it is important to discuss both options with your divorce attorney. Make sure to look at the situation not only from the financial aspect, but also from an emotional standpoint. The compassionate and experienced divorce attorneys and divorce mediators at Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., PC will be happy to help answer your questions about Legal Separation Agreements, No Fault Divorce, Divorce and Mediation. Call us at 631-923-1910 for a complimentary consultation or fill out the short form on this page and we’ll get right back to you.