A separation agreement is a contract between two spouses allowing them to live “separate and apart” from one another without necessarily legally ending their marriage nor living apart.
A court, in determining whether spouses are living “separate and apart”, will look at various factors such as whether or not the parties:
Many couples do not rush to get a divorce and thus remain separated for a lengthy period. A Separation Agreement helps to codify the terms of their relationship going forward.
A Separation Agreement will deal with multiple aspects of your separation, including:
Is it a common misconception that child custody means the residency of the child. In reality, child custody determines who is entitled to make the major decisions for the child, including decisions related to healthcare, school and religion.
This section of the Separation Agreement will typically dictate the parties’ decisions related to who the child will primarily reside with, as well as access and visitation rights for the other parent. These are usually drafted very precisely so as to avoid future disagreement and will typically include terms related to holiday schedules and exceptions to the schedule, such as birthdays and summer vacations.
Child support is typically governed by the Federal Child Support Guidelines. Parents of a child can agree to a differing arrangement within a separation agreement, but must beware that if under scrutiny, a court will look to the Child Support Guidelines before enforcing the separation agreement and may alter your agreement as a result of any discrepancy
One party may be obliged to pay the other ongoing or lump-sum spousal support. Factors that play into this are the length of the relationship, how many children the parties have and wage discrepancy between the two parties, resulting in a decrease of standard of living by the poorer party because of the separation.
The last major section of a separation agreement involves the division of property, assets and debts. A separation agreement can be used to facilitate and codify the terms of such division, and can clarify to both parties their next steps.
There are many other areas of your separation that a Separation Agreement can govern, and it is important to have a properly drafted Agreement in order for it be enforceable within a court, if the Agreement is ever disputed.
Four Important Notes Prior to Drafting a Separation Agreement