What Are Separation Agreements?
Posted on March 27th, 2023
We all dream of getting married to the love of our lives. However, some marriages end before ‘death do we part.’ America has one of the highest divorce rates in the world, with approximately 30-35% of first-time spouses calling it quits. But divorces come with a set of unique challenges. Sometimes, you and your partner might want to walk different paths without ending things permanently. That’s where separation agreements come into play.
Separation Agreement: Everything You Need to Know
A separation agreement is a legally binding document between the parties in a marital relationship. It can serve as a trial, a prelude to divorce, or a legal status short of an actual divorce.
What are Separation Agreements?
Couples often choose separation to see if they can live apart or if the distance helps them reassess their marriage. Some states also require a separation/waiting period of about 10-180 days before finalizing a divorce.
Whatever your intentions with the separation, it’s a good idea to sit down with your spouse and figure out how you’ll handle your finances, property, and children when you’re not living together. Also, because people can change their minds or forget things they have said, you want to put these arrangements in a written separation agreement.
Separation agreements dictate how spouses will handle their affairs during their time away. It helps avoid misunderstandings and ensures couples remain on the same page. A separation agreement lawyer can submit a completed separation agreement to the court before divorce proceedings begin, so it can become a part of the judge’s final divorce decree.
Understanding the Differences Between a Separation Agreement and a Divorce
Although some people see separation and divorce as essentially the same thing, there are several legal differences between the two. Separation may be the first step to a divorce, but it’s not a divorce and is treated differently in court.
Also, separation does not return parties to single status. The marriage is legally intact, even when you and your spouse no longer live together. Some couples may separate first to see if they can work out their differences. Others may choose to remain separated, knowing they’re still legally married.
That’s not all. While a separation agreement is a legally binding contract, you don’t have to go to court to finalize it. You and your partner can work with separation agreement lawyers to reach a settlement and sign the papers.
Critical Elements of Separation Agreements
Ideally, your separation agreement should include provisions specific to your needs. This could be anything as long as you and your partner agree to it.
Here are a few elements you might want to mention in your separation agreement.
1. Child Support
If you have minor children, you’ll need to list child support details such as an amount, specific dates, and how long the payments will continue. However, in the event of a divorce, a judge can ignore these terms and make their judgment in the child’s best interests.
2. Child Custody Schedule
Your separation agreement must also lay down comprehensive custody arrangements and parenting schedules. Take care of parenting time, visitation, special holidays, who pays travel costs, and so on. Again, a judge may ignore these terms in the event of divorce, but if it serves as a good guideline, they may not want to.
For partners that need financial assistance to continue a lifestyle similar to what they had when living together, alimony (also known as spousal support) might be on the table.
4. Bill Payments
Debts, credit cards, and car loans are often payable by both partners, even if only one partner took it out. We recommend you decide who’ll be responsible for what and add it to the separation agreement.
5. Marital Residence
Will one of you stay in the family home? Who will be responsible for any mortgage payments, repairs, and utilities? Moreover, how will those payments affect each spouse’s interest in the property? Your separation agreement should address your respective rights over your marital residence.
6. Finances and Tax Deductions
Taxes can be a complicated part of a divorce. It’s good to have your separation agreement record of what will happen with taxes during the annual filing.
7. Health Insurance
If your health insurance covers your spouse and you no longer want them to receive any benefits, a separation agreement may serve to drop them from the plan.
Why Consider a Separation Agreement?
As a Scranton family law firm, we’re often asked when it’s best to consider separation. The truth is, it depends. Different couples have different circumstances, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. A few reasons why spouses may want a separation agreement are as follows.
- The couple wants to separate for the time being but intends to remain married.
- The couple wants to divorce and wishes to sort out the specifics in advance.
- The couple wants to maintain their legal relationship status while living apart.
Again, this is only the tip of the iceberg. You can always talk to a separation agreement lawyer or Scranton family attorney to weigh your options and decide whether separation is the right course of action for you.
Consult a Reputable Separation Agreement Lawyer Today
Breakups are hard. With emotions running high, the last thing you want is to work out the logistics of the split. That said, having a separation agreement can help make the transition a little easier.
It’s best to work together with your spouse to come to a mutually beneficial decision about how to move forward. You don’t have to go through the painful process of separation alone. The separation agreement lawyers at Kalinoski Law will take care of things so you can move on with your life. Discuss your case with our Scranton family attorneys today.
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Craig P. Kalinoski is a respected attorney serving clients in Scranton, Pennsylvania. With a focus on Family Law, Criminal Defense, and Civil Rights, he has established himself as a top-rated legal professional. Recognized as a Rising Star and admired by peers, Craig's commitment to excellence sets him apart in the legal field.