The Three Types of Separation

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It is important to note that a separation is not the same as a divorce. A separation means that you are living apart from your spouse, but are still legally married until you get a judgement of divorce from a court. Generally, a separation affects the financial responsibilities between the spouses before the divorce is final. This article will discuss the three different types of separation.

It must be noted that in most states only one type of separation changes your legal status, however, all three of them have the potential to affect your legal rights in some way.

Trial separation – this is whereby spouses need to take a break from their relationship. During the trial separation they may choose to live apart while they decide between divorce and reconciliation. While spouses are separated, it must be noted that the same legal rules apply as when married in respect of ownership of property. Therefore, for example, money one spouse earns and property bought during the period of trial separation is still considered jointly owned by the spouses.

If spouses are hoping to reconcile, it may be a good idea to write an informal agreement about some issues that will come up. For example, deciding on whether or not to continue to share a joint bank account or credit cards. If there are children in the marriage, spouses may want to decide how and when each of them will spend time with the children. However, if the spouses do not wish to get back together, the trial separation turns into a permanent one.

Permanent separation – this is when spouses live apart from each other without the intention of reconciliation but are not divorced. One article put it that “a permanent separation is the roll down the runway toward the takeoff of life as a single person again”. Almost all divorcing couples at some point agree that the marriage will end and that they intend to go their separate ways, legally and forever, and when this happens, the couple separate permanently. Even after agreeing to divorce often one or both spouses need time to adjust to the new situation and a permanent separation fills this gap.

Legal separation – in some states, including New York, spouses can get a legal separation by filing a request in family court. By being legally separated the spouses have a different legal status from being divorced or married. The spouses are no longer married but they are not divorced either and as a result they cannot remarry. However, the court does award orders granting the legal separation including orders on property division, alimony and child custody and support, similar to a divorce.

Most spouses who choose legal separation instead of divorce do this for a number of reasons including, religious beliefs, a desire to keep the family together legally for the sake of the children, the need for one spouse to keep their health insurance benefits that would be lost with a divorce.

For more information contact a Syracuse divorce attorney.

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