David Duchovny and wife are legally separated

The Duchovny’s are legally separated and have been for a while, apparently. It may have something to do with the fact that David Duchovny, of TV’s X Files, was recently released from a California rehab clinic for “s– addiction” and is now back in the Malibu home he used to share with his wife and kids. What does that mean for New York folks? What lessons can we glean there?
Well, in New York, you are not legally separated just because you and your spouse have chosen to live in separate homes. You are not legally separated just because you say or think you are. It is a legal concept and in order for you and your husband to really be “separated” you have to follow certain legal procedures.
In New York you can get legally separated by stipulation. That is, you and your spouse agree to separate, and you agree on the terms of that separation. Usually if there are children you would also agree on the terms of custody. If there are assets, you would agree on disposition of those assets, and normally any assets you acquire after the stipulation is signed would not be included in the marital assets at the time of divorce (for distribution purposes.) For all intents an purposes, the separation in New York is like an uncontested divorce. It’s just that you have to wait one year to actually get divorced. New York law requires that you must be separated one full year from the date of execution of the separation agreement before you are eligible to file for divorce.
For the separation agreement to be valid, you must execute it in front of a notary, as must your spouse. And it must also be “acknowledged.” Then it has to be filed with the court. That means you are going to have to obtain an index number.
Another way you can get a separation in New York is by judgment. You actually have to go to court and there is a hearing. In that case, you need to prove grounds for the separation, sort of the way you would have to prove grounds to get a divorce.
Of course, if you are able to prove grounds for a separation, rather than get a separation, you might want to think about just going for a divorce. Except that sometimes people want to stay married for personal reasons. It may be because of the children. It may be because they want a time out to see how things go. It may come down to money. There are many reasons. But the bottom line is, in New York you must follow the legal procedures in order to be “separated.” Otherwise you are still married and subject to the matrimonial laws of the state in terms of equitable distribution, etc.
I am frankly not sure what the law in California is on this. I know “fault” is not an issue in California. So you would not need to prove grounds even if you are seeking a judgment of separation. I suspect that the parties usually would stip to the separation in California. I suspect that is exactly what David Duchovny and Tea Leoni did.
In New York, Tea might have alleged constructive abandonment as her basis for the separation. It would seem that if your spouse is addicted in the way that Duchovny was addicted, he has basically “abandonned” the marriage emotionally, and perhaps even physically.