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Is My Marriage Terminated If I Become Legally Separated?

Is My Marriage Terminated If I Become Legally Separated?

After the breakdown of your marriage, you and your spouse may work together to determine the next steps in your relationship. For some, that may mean moving straight to divorce and legally dissolving the marriage. However, for others, it can mean pursuing legal separation while they consider divorce or reconciliation. Our family law attorneys share what a legal separation may mean to your marriage.

Legal Separation Will Not Dissolve a Marriage

A legal separation is an agreement between two spouses drafted by a family law attorney that outlines each individual’s responsibilities as you agree to legally separate and live separate and apart. This document does not need to be approved by the court and instead becomes enforceable after it is signed by both parties and notarized.

While you may feel that a legal separation will end your marriage as it establishes that you and your spouse are no longer in a relationship, your separation will not dissolve your marriage. Instead, your legal separation will continue your marriage but provide yourself and your spouse the space needed to live separate lives, complete with child custody and support, the division of assets, and more.

The terms discussed and agreed upon in your separation agreement must also include the issues that need to be resolved before you can achieve a divorce, such as determining child custody, agreeing on child and/or spousal support payments, dividing property amongst yourselves, and any other concerns you or your spouse may have.

Legal separation often looks similar to divorce; however, those who pursue legal separations may still be eligible to use benefits from their spouse, such as health insurance, that they may not be able to access after a divorce. If you are seeking a legal separation to retain these benefits, it is important to check coverage to ensure that these benefits will still be available to both parties in the event of a legal separation.

Reasons Why Some May Pursue Legal Separation Rather Than Divorce

Some may feel they would rather file for a legal separation rather than a divorce.

Access to Spousal Benefits

Since you remain married while legally separated, you and your spouse can still access spousal benefits, such as healthcare and retirement benefits that you may not be eligible for when divorced. For some, access to spousal benefits and this form of support can be helpful as they work through their next steps and prepare for their life after marriage.

Individual benefit carriers, such as insurance companies, might not cover both spouses in the event of a legal separation. If you are separating from your spouse to receive spousal benefits, it is essential to review your coverage to ensure that both parties are still eligible for coverage even if the parties are legally separated.

Their Religion Not Allowing Divorce

Some may look for an alternative to divorce when seeking to end their relationship, as their religious views do not support divorce. A legal separation may be an appropriate option for those seeking to exit a marriage and still comply with these requirements.

They Believe There is a Chance For Reconciliation

Divorce can be costly, especially if the divorce period is long or there are multiple contested issues. If you and your spouse believe that you need to live your lives separately but will revisit the chance of reconciliation, a legal separation can help you get there without legally dissolving your marriage. If you do choose to reconcile with your spouse, you will not need to remarry with each other, as you will still be married from your original marriage.

They Want to Make Sure They Are Making The Right Choice

A divorce is a life-changing event. If you and your spouse are unsure if you do want to pursue a divorce, a separation agreement can help you live as if you have had a divorce until you want to pursue the divorce process. As you agree on child custody, marital property division, and more, you may begin to think about if this lifestyle is one you are ready to live or if you wish to reconcile with your spouse. For some, this separation period may help them understand what they wish to do with their marriage.

If you learn that you do wish to divorce your spouse after creating a separation agreement, you will need to wait at least one year from the date of notarization before you can file for divorce. In this “conversion,” you can file for a no-fault divorce and present your separation agreement to help you with your claim that your marriage cannot be reconciled.

Friedman & Friedman PLLC, Attorneys at Law Family Law Attorneys

Choosing to end your marriage can be difficult for you and your family. If you and your spouse are unhappy with your current marriage and wish to separate, our family law attorneys can help you create a separation agreement on which you and your spouse can agree. Together, we can help you take the next steps toward happiness and freedom as you determine what may be next in your life.

Are you unsure if you want to stay married but not file for divorce? Schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys by calling (516) 688-0088 to learn more about creating a separation agreement and how we can help you during this time.


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