Separation Agreement – A Contract between the Spouses
The separation agreement is a legal document that outlines the terms of a couple’s separation. A couple is not legally separated unless they are living apart. The separation agreement sets out the responsibilities of each partner and any property or support agreements.
Spouses and children can customize a Separation Agreement to meet their specific needs. The agreement can address issues related to:
- Custody of children (where the children will live)
- Visitation rights (how often each parent gets to spend time with the children)
- Child support (how much money one parent pays to another for child care)
- Alimony (payments from one person to another after divorce)
- Division of property (the division of property between spouses)
- Resolving other family mediation issues
When you sign a contract drafted by a lawyer representing your partner (and who may not have your best interests at heart), you may be giving up more than you realize. For example, if your spouse has more income than you because they earn more money than you do, that person may pay less maintenance than what would be considered fair given your respective incomes. Also, if one person owns property or other valuable assets not regarded as marital property under Massachusetts law (such as an inheritance). Those items could go entirely to one spouse rather than being divided equally between both parties.
Divorce vs. Separation
Unlike divorce, separation doesn’t end your marriage. Instead, it’s a legal document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each spouse during their time living separately from one another. Once a couple signs this document, they typically do not need to go back to court. Instead, they can refer to their separation agreement for guidance.
Why should I get a separation agreement?
There are many benefits to entering into a separation agreement with your spouse. By working together, you’ll avoid court costs and delays, protect your privacy, and preserve good relations with your spouse in the future by avoiding messy litigation. In addition to these benefits, you should also know that North Carolina courts require a separation agreement for spouses who have been separated for at least one year and want to file for an absolute divorce.
Is a Separation Agreement Right for Me?
If you think you and your spouse might get back together again in the future, a separation agreement may be right for you. However, keep in mind that if you end up divorcing, later on, some states will consider your previous separation agreement when determining child custody arrangements or dividing assets and debts.
When determining if spouses are in fact living "separate and apart," the courts will look at certain factors, such as whether or not they:
It is your contract that outlines terms regarding child custody, property division, child and spousal support, what happens with your retirement funds, debts and other financial matters. In addition, it serves to spell out other terms that may be important to you, such a religious upbringing of children, dietary insurance coverage etc. It is important, therefore, that this document is well written and adequately reflective of your intentions.
which needs to be thoroughly explained and understood by both of you. Copying and pasting from a friend’s agreement or using online templates will not provide you with a customized agreement nor all of the information about what you are getting yourself into upon signing it. It is very expensive to undo a mistake !
Lots of home-made agreements we have seen lack in the area of proper financial disclosure. If something happens down the road, this missing piece can void your entire agreement. You really don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’d have to convince a judge you did not hide any financial information, be accused of not properly disclosing or purposely hiding assets, or other perceived valuables. It is far better to have this financial disclosure properly done and attached to your separation agreement. Look at it as a form of protection or insurance against an unknown and ever-changing future.
Lots of parents are shocked to hear that even though they came up with a mutually agreeable arrangement, their divorce may not be granted. I hear you! The reason is, going back to the separation agreement being a legal document, there are some rules that need to be followed no matter what, especially regarding support for children and the protection of vulnerable parties.