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As a Divorce Lawyer on Long Island, I counsel my married clients in Nassau County and Suffolk County that they are entitled to become legally separated if they do not wish to divorce. Many couples choose separation rather than divorce, and they have a variety of reasons for making this choice.

The decision may arise from religious beliefs, the wish to continue certain medical benefits, or the belief that the marriage may benefit from time apart. Legal separation can also be a beneficial option for couples that are hesitant to move forward with divorce for any number of other reasons. Long Island, NY couples may obtain a legal separation either by separation agreement or obtaining a separation judgment or decree from the court in Nassau County or Suffolk County.

What’s the Difference Between Legal Separation and Choosing to Live Apart?

The main difference between legal separation and simply choosing to live apart is that the terms of the separation will be outlined in a separation agreement. A separation agreement is a contract between you and your spouse under which you agree to live separately and apart. The agreement can outline the terms of child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, and division of marital property. It can also address other issues that are important to the couple. While the separation agreement mirrors the divorce agreement in many ways, the couple is still legally married. Once there is a separation agreement, the couple may choose to remain separated, or may pursue divorce in the future.

Separation Agreements Are Agreements Filed with Nassau County or Suffolk County Court
A separation agreement is not a court-ordered document; instead, it is a contract that is willingly executed by both parties. It can, however, be enforced by the court if one party does not comply. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, then a separation agreement is not an option for that couple. The separation agreement must be signed by both parties and notarized by a notary public. The agreement can then be filed with the County Clerk’s Office in the county where at least one spouse lives. One year after the agreement has been signed, the couple may file for a “conversion” divorce based upon the terms of the separation agreement.

What’s a Judgment or Decree of Separation?
On the other hand, a Judgment or Decree of Separation can be issued by a court in cases where the parties cannot come to an agreement. In order to obtain a judgment or decree of separation, one spouse must ask the Nassau County or Suffolk County Supreme Court of New York for a Judgment of Separation by commencing a legal action. This type of action is started by filing a summons and complaint with the court and having copies served upon your spouse. The complaint must set forth the grounds for the separation, which are similar to the grounds required for a Judgment of Divorce.

Residency Requirements
Because the benefits of New York separation agreements are made available only to couples with a strong connection to the State of New York, in order to obtain a legal separation in New York, the couple must meet certain residency requirements. The residency requirements are the same for separation as they are for divorce in New York. They are as follows:

  1. the marriage ceremony took place in New York and one or both parties have lived in New York for at least one year prior to filing,
  2. the parties resided together in New York as husband and wife, and one or both parties have lived in New York for at least one year prior to filing.
  3. the cause of action took place in New York, and one of the parties has lived in New York for at least one year prior to filing.
  4. the cause of action took place in New York, and both parties live in New York at the time of filing.
  5. Either party has lived in New York for two or more years immediately prior to filing.

Contact Long Island Divorce Lawyer for Help With Your Separation Agreement in Nassau County or Suffolk County

An experienced Long Island divorce lawyer or family law attorney can assist you with drawing up your separation agreement, and with helping you and your spouse decide and agree on its terms. Especially in cases that involve real estate, pensions, debts, child custody or visitation, and/or tax issues, it is important that a Long Island divorce attorney with experience in Nassau County or Suffolk County courts oversee the agreement in order to avoid unforeseen issues or consequences. A divorce lawyer can also assist you with questions about filing for a Judgment of Separation, and with commencing legal action for separation. For couples living in Nassau County, Suffolk County, or the five boroughs of New York City that are contemplating divorce or separation, contact the experienced Long Island divorce lawyers of Robert E. Hornberger, P.C. at 631-923-1910for a free divorce or separation consultation.

Child custody and visitation is one of the most sensitive issues in the divorce or separation process in Nassau County and Suffolk County, NY. Confide in a trusted Long Island Child Custody Lawyer and Family Law attorney and to address your family’s unique circumstances and needs in order to ensure the best possible outcome for your children and family. If you have questions about your visitation rights in Nassau County, Suffolk County, or the five boroughs of New York City, contact the Family Law Office of Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. at 631-923-1910 for a free, confidential consultation.

D-LI eBookCoverCTAsmDownload our Free New York Divorce Guide

Our 41-page “Guide to New York Divorce: What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Divorce Lawyer in New York” written by an experienced family law lawyer Long Island’s Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., provides you with real information on the divorce process and the laws it rests upon in the state of New York. This book will help give you a solid foundation upon which you can begin the process of making your family’s, life better. Download your Free Guide to New York Divorce here.