Making the decision to end a marriage is one of the toughest choices a person can face. It’s hard to walk away from a relationship when you’ve built a shared life with that person, one that may include children. This is why some couples choose to be legally separated before finalizing a divorce, as it gives both partners some time and space in which weigh their options before ending the marriage completely.
But do you need to be legally separated before getting a divorce in New York? The short answer is no, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. The Mandel Law Firm has handled many divorce cases in New York, and we can work with you to make the process as easy as possible while safeguarding your future. Contact our New York family law attorneys today for a confidential consultation.
Legal Separation in New York
Under New York law, being legally separated from your spouse basically means that the two of you agree to live separate lives while still being officially married. Though the marriage is still intact, the spouses will each pay their own bills, live in separate homes, divide their shared property, and work out a custody arrangement for any children under age 18.
According to the state court system, separation agreements are written up by the spouses themselves or by an attorney, and they must be signed in the presence of a notary public, who must then notarize them. The spouses do not have to sign and notarize the agreement at the same time, nor do they have to use the same notary.
If you want to legally separate from your spouse, it’s important to know that you and your spouse will have to reach an agreement on your own. Separation agreements are not handed down by the courts, though once an agreement has been properly signed and notarized, you can file it with the County Clerk’s office wherever you live. If you do not know where your spouse is, or they do not consent to a separation agreement, you cannot forcibly obtain one.
Do You Need to be Legally Separated?
You can get a divorce after being legally separated from your spouse for one year or longer, and without the need to provide further “grounds” for the divorce. However, being legally separated is not a requirement to obtain a divorce. It’s one method that many couples use, as it’s a more amicable process than going through divorce proceedings in court and can save both parties a great deal of time and money. If you want to be divorced more quickly or cannot get your spouse to accept a separation agreement, though, there are still other ways to obtain a divorce.
How the Divorce Process Works
Before you can obtain a divorce in New York, the first step is to make sure you meet at least one of the necessary residence requirements, which are:
- You or your spouse must have lived in New York for two consecutive years prior to initiating the divorce
- You or your spouse has been living in New York for at least a year and you were married in the state or lived here as a couple
- You or your spouse has been living in New York for at least a year and the grounds for divorce happened in New York
- Both you and your spouse live in New York when you file for divorce and the grounds for divorce happened in New York
Once you’ve established residency, the next step is to decide on whether you want an uncontested or contested divorce. If you and your spouse are on good terms, going outside the court system and getting an uncontested divorce can save you, your spouse, and your family a lot of time, money, and heartache.
However, if you’re not on amicable terms with your spouse, you’ll need to go through the courts and proceed with a contested divorce. To do so, you’ll need to show that you meet one of New York’s grounds for divorce, which are:
- The marriage has irretrievably broken down over a period of at least six months
- Legal separation for at least one year
- Judgment of separation from the courts
- Inhumane or cruel treatment
From there, you’ll go through a series of court hearings to determine how your shared property will be divided if one spouse will pay alimony to the other, who will retain custody of any children, and so on.
Contact a New York Divorce Lawyer
Getting divorced is a difficult experience, and with so much at stake, it’s important to get help from experienced New York divorce lawyers. The Mandel Law Firm can walk you through your options for obtaining a divorce, fill out any necessary paperwork, and fight for custody of your children and your fair share of your assets. Contact our office to set up a consultation.