Formal separation agreement

Written by noel shankel
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Formal separation agreement
If a marriage doesn't work out, the couple may enter into a separation agreement. (arms of married couple image by Denis Babenko from Fotolia.com)

If a married couple, or those involved in a civil union, decide to dissolve their relationship with a divorce, they have the option to first enter into a formal separation agreement. This agreement may be used as evidence in a court of law when determining the conditions of a divorce. Such issues covered by this agreement include alimony, child support and living arrangements. Couples have the right to terminate the conditions of a separation agreement if they opt not to get a divorce.

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Purpose

A formal separation agreement is a contract entered into by both parties of a marriage or relationship to divide property and determine other rights if the couple ends up getting a divorce. If the couple opts to get a divorce, the signed separation agreement must be attached to the divorce petition. If properly filed, the terms of the separation agreement are enforceable by a court of law in regards to the final divorce ruling. In New York, the separation agreement must be filed in the county where one, or both, of the parties reside.

Formal separation agreement
Separation agreements in New York must be filed with the county. (new york image by Gerhard Führing from Fotolia.com)

Terms

When a couple decides to enter into a formal separation agreement they can, without court interference, decide such issues as division of property, spousal support, and who owes what in regards to debt. Separation agreements can also dictate child support guidelines and child custody or visitation guidelines, as well as who may remain in the common residence. If both parties agree, separation agreements may alter prenuptial agreements.

Formal separation agreement
Issues involving children may be resolved with a separation agreement. (Child image by Serenitie from Fotolia.com)

Legal Form

An attorney has the responsibility of drafting a formal separation agreement for a couple seeking separation. The drafted form contains such information as the name of all children, if any, involved in the relationship as well as their birthdays and Social Security numbers. The new address of the spouse who moves out must also be documented, as well as details regarding who will pay what on the existing house. Specific child and spousal support amounts, including how often they will be paid, must also be documented. The amount of life insurance, health insurance, and dental insurance for both parties must also be stipulated.

Formal separation agreement
The new address of the spouse who moves out must be documented. (house image by kruszek from Fotolia.com)

Property

For property to be legally divided within a formal separation agreement, the specifics need to be in writing. While some aspects of a separation agreement can be decided in an oral manner, property issues cannot. Both parties involved in the separation must sign the agreement, and a solicitor must witness both signatures. Lastly, each party involved in the separation must have obtained their own independent legal advice before a property divide can become official. A valid agreement to divide property will override any provisions laid out by the Property (Relationships) Act of 1976.

Warning

Unless both parties agree not to divorce, the stipulations outlined on a formal separation agreement must be fulfilled. If any dispute arises over the finalised copy or enforcement of the separation agreement, the party that prevails shall receive everything they are owed, and have their attorney costs covered by the losing party. Legally, if a couple decides not to file for divorce they have the option to revoke their separation agreement. While legally separated, the couple maintains all benefits granted to married couples, such as tax benefits, until the divorce becomes final.

Formal separation agreement
If a couple decides to stay together, they may revoke thier separation agreement. (happy couple image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com)

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