What is a Separation Agreement and what is Involved in Getting One?
A separation agreement is a contract entered into between separating spouses to resolve their outstanding matrimonial issues. It is, without doubt, the best way to resolve their issues because it is relatively inexpensive and can be prepared on an expedited basis. The spouses get to make their own settlement rather than leaving it to a judge to decide on a date convenient to the court. A separation agreement can also be filed with the court and, where appropriate, be enforced like any court order. However, the spouses must have an agreement before they can enter into a separation agreement, as the prefix to the word suggests. The agreement should also be fair to both spouses; a spouse should not enter into one simply to “ get it over with.” That will invariably lead to regret in the future. They are also not easy to change, so one or both spouses better get it right the first time.
There are many issues that need to be addressed, and can be addressed, in a separation agreement. They include but are not limited to issues of custody and access, spousal and child support, and the division of property and debts. It is highly recommended that a lawyer prepare an agreement and that the spouses do not attempt to prepare one on their own, find one on the Internet or from a friend and attempt to make it fit their particular circumstances. These are intricate and complicated documents, and if a mistake is made the aggrieved party will likely spend far more time and money attempting to fix it, if it can be fixed. A lawyer can only act for one of the parties so as to avoid a conflict of interest. There are also certain procedures and safeguards that go into the preparation and execution of the separation agreement, and if those are not followed a court can set the agreement aside.