Last month, we discussed the legal process and requirements for becoming legally separated in New York State. Some readers may have been left wondering why a married couple would want to enter into this marital status. It must seem to many that it lacks many of the advantages of marriage, while not allowing a final break like divorce can.

That is exactly how many couples like it. Another way to look at legal separation is as a way for two married people who still care for each other, but no longer wish to live together, to maintain some financial and emotional security, without having to completely end their marriage.

A few years ago, The New York Times profiled a number of separated couples. Many such couples maintained this arrangement for years; one couple had been separated since 1989.

A lot of the time, legally separated couples remain cordial with each other. One spouse may continue to provide financial support to the other. They may even socialize occasionally. The couple simply did not want to live together as spouses anymore.

Naturally, spouses can simply live separately, if they have the means to sustain two residences. However, an informal arrangement may be highly risky, especially if you have children together. A relatively warm relationship may deteriorate over time. One spouse may provide financial assistance at first, but later reduce the payments or even end them entirely.

This is why many couples choose to go through the process to obtain a legal separation. As we discussed in September, this includes creating a separation agreement, a binding contract in which each spouse has rights and obligations. Each side can then enforce the agreement, if the other spouse ever fails to uphold their duties.