Separation Vs. Divorce: What does it mean to get separated?

Karen BigmanBlog, Divorce Process

There are several options available for ending a marriage. Typically, couples physically separate and eventually divorce. Separation may or may not come with a legal agreement or even a written agreement. It’s important to understand what the difference is as it may dictate how you move forward. I sat down with New York Matrimonial Attorney, Matthew Kesten to get an accurate understanding of what it really means to get separated. Here’s what I learned:

1. You don’t have to be ‘legally separated’ to physically separate.

2. A legal separation generally refers to a court order that provides for the rights and duties of a couple while they are still married, but living apart (

3. A married couple can also enter into a written “Separation Agreement”, which is a contract between spouses that is generally done before a divorce proceeding is initiated and which does not have to be filed with the court.

4. A Separation Agreement is a negotiated agreement between the two parties which typically resolves and outlines the division of assets, custody, a parenting plan, and support issues.

5. A Separation Agreement is generally also used as the agreement for divorce purposes and the terms are included in a divorce judgment or decree to be followed by the parties.

6. A Separation Agreement is enforceable, just like a written Settlement Agreement that is entered into after the commencement of a divorce proceeding.

7. A couple may be in agreement over the finances and parenting and decide they don’t need to have a legal document. This occasionally occurs before the decision is made to divorce – perhaps it’s a trial separation or the parties aren’t ready to take a more formal action.  An informal understanding such as this is not a binding “Separation Agreement” and any information arrangements are not binding on the parties.

8. In most cases, without a legal separation or divorce, you can remain on your spouse’s health insurance plan.

On a non-legal note, when you begin dating, some people feel differently about being separated vs. being divorced. It can be a barrier to a new relationship.

For more information on the separation and divorce process, sign up for a Complimentary Consultation with me here.