New York courts recognize legal separation. When a married couple decides to separate legally, the marriage is left intact, but the parties no longer live together. In New York, many couples legally separate before they go forward with filing for divorce.
Legal separation requires the parties to enter a binding contract. This contract addresses various issues in the couple’s marriage, such as how house and car payments will be made, which party will live in the marital home, how the marital home’s utilities will be paid, and, most importantly, how custody and visitation of the couple’s children will be addressed.
Even though the parties may not be seeking a divorce at the time they separate, it is still prudent to hire a divorce attorney. A divorce attorney will make sure that any terms agreed to are fair and equitable, and that the separation agreement includes proper language and is filed correctly with the appropriate venue.
After the parties have been legally separated for at least one year, they may seek a divorce on the grounds of living separate and apart for twelve months if they wish to move forward with the divorce. Living separate and apart is a no-fault ground for divorce in New York. The New York courts will review the separation agreement to confirm that it was valid. Additionally, the courts will inquire as to whether the parties followed the terms of their separation agreement. If not, the parties may not be granted a divorce.