What is a Separation Agreement?
One of the more common questions in family law is, what is a separation agreement? Separation agreements are signed agreements used in a legal separation or when the spouses are living apart in preparation for divorce. It is an agreement used to settle any disputed issues like:
● Temporary alimony
● Child support
While these are the main issues addressed in a separation agreement, each situation is different and the agreement can be as unique as necessary. Topics like family pets or religion can even be included. Your divorce attorney can go over a list of topics that are commonly addressed in separation agreements.
In most cases, separation agreements must be signed and notarized by both parties. Creating a separation agreement allows couples to have more control over their situation, especially if they proceed with the divorce.
Converting a Separation Agreement
If you and your spouse continue with the divorce based on the terms outlined in the separation agreement, this agreement can then be converted into a divorce judgment. This means the terms of your separation agreement can be automatically included in the divorce. You can begin a divorce petition based on the grounds that you and your spouse agreed on for a certain amount of time after the separation agreement was notarized. If the court approves the agreement, a “conversion divorce” is typically deemed an uncontested proceeding and no further hearing is usually mandated.
If you plan to use your separation agreement to start your divorce, you are required to file the original agreement with the court before, or at the same time, you file the divorce petition. In most cases, the requirement to live separate and apart is 12 months after signing the separation agreement in order to be eligible to file for divorce using the agreement as the grounds.
Difference Between Separation Agreement and Settlement Agreement
The separation agreement is a contract the spouses enter into before the divorce is finalized. The separation agreement is incorporated into the settlement agreement once the divorce petition has been started. The settlement agreement is filed with the court as part of the final divorce decree. In some cases, the terms may be the same as or similar to those in the separation agreement.
Separation agreements are typically temporary whereas a settlement agreement is a final binding contract. While the spouses are separated under the separation agreement, they can work on a more permanent one, which is the settlement agreement.
Benefits of Separation Agreements
Legal separation agreements are often financially beneficial for couples. They allow you to retain some marital benefits, like health insurance or the ability to file income taxes as a married couple rather than individually. It can clearly outline who is responsible for paying what, how the home will be maintained, access to bank accounts, etc.
Retaining a Family Law Attorney
If you have questions about separation agreements and/or divorce in your state, it’s important to speak with a skilled divorce attorney. At 1-800-Family-Law we can refer you to an experienced divorce attorney near you. Contact us today and let one of our family law attorneys resolve all your legal issues.