When people think about divorce, many tend to think about all the issues surrounding a divorce as one big jumbled package, but this is often not the case.
The most impactful issues surrounding a divorce typically include everything other than the divorce itself. A Separation Agreement is a contract between separating spouses that can be used to resolve the most impactful issues related to a divorce, those being property division, spousal and child support, as well as parenting issues including access, custody and residence of the children. In the vast majority of situations, these issues must be resolved before the court will grant a divorce.
Practically speaking Separation Agreements are not for everyone, the parties must be willing to work together to compromise and come to solutions on the many details that a Separation Agreement can include. If the parties can resolve the key issues first, they can just get a simple, uncontested divorce without litigation. In such a context, the divorce itself is a truly simple and uncomplicated procedural matter.
When it comes to the larger divorce process, the best way for the parties to retain control over the outcome is to combine a Separation Agreement with a simple divorce. A Separation Agreement allow the parties to negotiate the minor details and choose outcomes that courts simply will not provide of their own accord, such as modifying the bounds of child support beyond what the courts might find to be reasonable. In effect Separation Agreements allow the parties to tailor the details of the separation to their family’s situation.
Separation Agreements can be used to accomplish anything that can normally be ordered by a court and more. They are frequently less expensive and time consuming than the court process. Lawyers who are attentive to detail and who understand your particular situation can enable you to take retain control of your divorce or separation and to minimize conflict, cost and animosity now and in the future.
Separation Agreements and divorces are also useful for letting parties who are on the same page on key issues formalize their de facto agreement. They are not merely for resolving conflicts, but also for crystalizing agreements before the parties’ meeting of the minds drifts apart.
Separation Agreements are flexible tools and can be used to resolve a single issue or every issue on a final or temporary basis as the case may be. They can also include terms dictating how the parties will resolve future issues that arise, thus decreasing the likelihood that future conflicts will be resolved in court.
Financial disclosure and independent legal advice are both typical and important features of Separation Agreements. Nonetheless, in many situations both can be foregone if the matters are addressed directly within the agreement, however, robust financial disclosure and mutual independent legal advice will increase the odds of the agreement being held up in court. In any event a Separation Agreement must be entered into voluntarily by both parties.
If the terms of a Separation Agreement are not followed, the same enforcement methods available through a purely court driven process are typically available. Separation Agreements are typically made into court Orders on consent once they are completed. This gives the parties not only the same enforcement options but also the same utility for travelling with children, enforcing of access, involvement with the children’s schools etc. for these issues, the presence of a court order that the parties can show the relevant authorities is crucial.
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