Though you may hear the two terms used interchangeably, there is a big difference between separation and divorce from a legal perspective. Depending on which applies, you have a distinct status under New York’s divorce statute on separation and divorce. As such, there are certain pros and cons you should weigh when figuring out what works best for your situation. You can trust a knowledgeable New York divorce attorney to review your circumstances, assess your goals, and advise on your options. However, a general description on separation and divorce may also be useful.

How Separation and Divorce are Different

The primary distinction between these two statuses is the obvious: When you complete the divorce process, your marriage is legally dissolved in divorce court and you are single. With a legal separation, you remain married but are living apart. Additional differences include:

  • Benefits that you receive through your spouse, including healthcare and Social Security, cease when you divorce. Through separation, you can retain these.
  • You are free to remarry after your divorce is final. However, you are still officially married in a separation situation, even if you do not live together. Plus, if you are separated, you can reconcile and get back together with your spouse. Divorce cannot be reversed.
  • Separated couples may still be on the hook for each other’s debts. When you are divorced, debts belong to the respective individual.
  • For jointly owned property, a legal separation means the ownership interest is transferred to one spouse if the other dies. If spouses divorce before one dies, the interest of the decedent goes to his or her heirs.

Similarities Between Separation and Divorce

Despite the significant differences, there are some common elements, including:

  • One spouse may be entitled to alimony from the other in legal separation, just as with divorce;
  • You have rights and obligations as the parent of a minor child in divorce and separation. You are entitled to agree or have a court decide on child custody, visitation, and financial support;
  • You can go through the process of asset division, whether you are divorced or legally separated.

Why to Consider Separation or Divorce

You may want to separate from your spouse, rather than go through the official divorce process, for various reasons. Separation may be the right fit if:

  • You want to retain medical insurance or other benefits you receive through your spouse;
  • You have debts as a married couple, and you want to resolve these together while living under different roofs;
  • There is a possibility that you will reconcile with your spouse, so you do not want the finality of divorce until you work through your relationship issues.

Consult with an Experienced Attorney on Separation vs. Divorce

This overview on separation and divorce is helpful, but it takes a knowledgeable lawyer to show you how New York divorce laws apply to your specific circumstances. There are advantages and disadvantages that you cannot appreciate unless you have a legal background. If you would like to discuss your situation with a skilled divorce attorney, please call the Colwell Law Group, LLC at 518-864-0564 or visit our website. We can schedule a consultation to advise you on different alternatives.