When the marital relationship breaks down irretrievably and stops being meaningful/relevant to the couple, they can choose to live separately or get a divorce.
It is not always necessary to have mediation, legal or otherwise, when such a situation occurs. The couple can sort out important aspects of their shared life together and come to a mutually satisfactory separation that concerns property, parenting, finances and support.
However, a legal document prepared with the assistance of an experienced divorce lawyer or separation lawyer, signed by both parties and witnessed, helps to clarify matters, firm up the commitment and ensure that both parties’ present and future concerns are addressed.
What Are Separation Agreements?
Separation and divorce have a permanent impact on life of the couple, their children and sometimes of the extended family. Separation agreements are useful for couples who, for religious or personal beliefs, do not wish to get legally divorced or would like to live separately for some time before they make the final decision. There is no compulsion to have such an agreement, but it helps to prove that both parties have certain ideas about the future of their assets, parenting etc. and how they want them resolved.
Almost any issue faced by the couple can be put into it – E.G. who gets to keep the cat or dog, how college tuitions are to be funded, mortgages paid off, etc. It is an agreement reached before formal divorce proceedings begin and complete financial disclosure is essential.
As long as they are fair, reasonable and properly executed, courts do recognize them and take them into account. It’s important that the couple gets them drafted and created by an experienced, qualified separation lawyer, child-custody lawyer or divorce lawyer. If the terms are not seen as reasonable or fair, not in the best interests of children or a spouse has not fully disclosed liabilities/assets then the court may refuse to legally recognize the document.
Separation agreements are:
- Customized documents, tailored to set out clearly what a married couple wishes to do with their property, money, assets, insurance, medical/dental benefits, matrimonial home, pensions etc following their separation.
- Documents that deal with parents’ rights to direct the education and moral training of their children.
- They help resolve matters regarding division of money, transfer of property, future relationship with each other etc immediately without having to wait for the decree of divorce.
- Contracts enforceable by contract law, signed between two parties that must be honored.
- Seen as fair, impartial and equitable by both.
- Possible when the separation is amicable and both parties can negotiate the deal without acrimony.
- Possible with mutual trust, good faith, flexibility and willingness to accommodate the other without hurt, anger, jealousy, disrespect, stubbornness.
This document clearly addresses issues that are crucial to an equitable solution. Custody and access to children, spousal and child support, property-division, maintenance and debts/liabilities shared by the couple have to be described and resolved transparently.
The biggest advantage is that it allows the couple to make their own decisions regarding these issues, without having to engage in lengthy and expensive litigation to resolve them.
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