Legal Separation

Long Island Legal Separation Attorney

What is “legal separation”? How does it differ from divorce? These are important questions for those going through marital difficulties. Let’s define some terms first.

Divorce is the act of legally dissolving a marriage—breaking the union between a married couple and doing away with many of the couple’s responsibilities toward each other. It is a legal process, requiring court sanction.

Annulment is much rarer. This is the act of legally declaring a marriage null and void, as though it had never existed. Annulment may take place when one spouse entered the marriage under false pretenses—for example, if a husband was already legally married to another wife or if one spouse was untruthful about something that, had the other spouse known about it, he or she would not have consented to enter marriage. Other situations might include if one or both parties were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the marriage took place.

Legal separation is different from both divorce and annulment. It’s sometimes called “divorce a mensa et thoro” (Latin for “divorce from bed-and-board”), “judicial separation,” or “separate maintenance.” In simple terms, a legal separation occurs when the couple goes to court and receives an order stating that they are no longer living as a married couple. It allows the spouses to live apart as though they are not married even though they are still legally married. If the couple moves beyond legal separation to divorce, issues such as alimony, division of property, child custody, and so on still have to be worked out.

Why do couples seek legal separation? Sometimes it’s the next step between physical separation and divorce, although it’s not a required step. Sometimes legal separation is an option for couples who have decided not to seek a divorce or who do not believe in divorce, especially for religious reasons. And sometimes it’s done in the hope that reconciliation will follow. Whatever the reason, it is important to get the help of an attorney who is familiar with New York family law topics when pursuing separation.

The information given here just skims the surface. Like any step taken toward divorce, legal separation is a serious matter. Before proceeding with it, you should find out all you can and be sure you know your rights. Divins & Divins, PC, Attorneys at Law can provide competent, compassionate counsel that has your best interests at heart. Contact us for a no-cost, no-obligation initial discussion.

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