If you are preparing to separate from your spouse, a Separation Agreement can be used to set the terms for a division of assets. Create a Separation Agreement with our step-by-step template designer.
Last Update October 19th, 2021
What is a Separation Agreement
A Separation Agreement is a legally binding agreement used by two people in a marriage who have decided to separate while remaining legally married, or before they petition for a divorce. This written contract defines how property, assets, bills, debts, spousal support, and other shared responsibilities, such as child custody or support, will be allocated.
A Separation Agreement is also often referred to as:
Marriage Separation Agreement
Marital Settlement Agreement
Legal Separation Papers
Difference Between Separation, Legal Separation and Divorce
Ending a marriage can be a complicated matter, and there are different stages which both parties must go through to complete the process.
|Definition||A couple has decided to live apart and remain legally married||A couple lives apart through a court order but remains married||The legal end to a marriage|
|Duration||Can be temporary or permanent||Can be temporary or permanent||Permanent|
|Possibility to Remarry||Parties cannot remarry||Parties cannot remarry||Parties are free to remarry|
If you decide to live apart from your partner, while still remaining legally married, this is known as a “separation” or “trial separation”. This is an informal agreement between both spouses, and there are no judges or lawyers involved.
If the spouses have not yet decided to divorce, a Temporary Separation Agreement can be used to set the preliminary terms for a division of property, establish the rules of your separation and the rights of each spouse. If the couple already has the intention to divorce then they are considered to be in a “permanent separation” by the law and a Permanent Separation Agreement can be drafted.
On the other hand, a “legal separation” involves getting a court to approve your separation and to put together an official legal Separation Agreement. This requires filing a petition in family court. While you will remain married, you won’t be able to marry anyone else until the divorce, but the financial connection you have to your spouse will be terminated.
Finally, a “divorce” officially ends and legally dissolves a marriage. In this case, a court is required to approve this decision and draft an agreement dividing property and settling spouse rights.
When to Use a Separation Agreement
There are various situations in which a Separation Agreement can be used. Whether you’re looking to legally separate from your spouse, seek a divorce, or separate informally, this legally binding document can be used to detail all aspects of a separation.
Here are some of the most common ways in which you can use a Separation Agreement:
You have decided to separate with your spouse and want to determine how to divide your property and assets
You are ready to separate for some time and live independently from your spouse, but not yet ready to get a divorce or want to take some time before making a final decision on dissolving the marriage
You want to get a divorce and already know how you want to allocate your assets or other responsibilities and prefer to define this yourself rather than leave it up to the court
You want to permanently maintain your legal marriage status while simultaneously living separately from your spouse
You want to prepare an outline for the division of finances or other assets before meeting with an attorney regarding legal separation
You are deciding whether to do a legal separation and want to set the preliminary terms for a division of assets in advance
What to Include in a Separation Agreement
A Separation Agreement includes various key terms, which can differ depending on what responsibilities the married couple wants to outline. This agreement often addresses many of the same specifications as a divorce decree, such as:
Division of marital assets such as property, financial accounts, insurance, business interests, and retirement accounts
Division of debt responsibilities
Spousal support, including maintenance and alimony
Child custody, child support payments, and visitation rights
Allocation of costs such as health insurance and whether spouses are entitled to any specific assets
Responsibilities relating to marital property expenses such as utilities, insurance, and mortgage
Spousal benefits and who will pay for them
How to Write a Separation Agreement
Writing a Separation Agreement is relatively straightforward, and it can be created by yourself at home. Nevertheless, this type of legal document must be drafted correctly to avoid either spouse challenging it further down the line.
By using LawDistrict’s step-by-step document builder, you can easily write your own Separation Agreement without a lawyer.
However, in certain states, a Separation Agreement must also be filed with the state when seeking legal separation or divorce, in addition to being signed by both spouses. Check your state regulations for more specific information about the divorce process where you live. In these cases, it can also sometimes be helpful to hire a lawyer to review the document and make sure it can be upheld in court.
Furthermore, a Separation Agreement must contain the following information for it to be legally valid:
Name and address of both spouses
Details of the marriage
Beginning date of the separation
Statement of the intention to separate
Specifications regarding the division of assets and the shared financial or child responsibilities of both parties
Living Separate and Apart Meaning
If two spouses are living separately and apart, this means they are residing in different locations without any intention to reconcile or resume a marital relationship and have the intention to divorce. Living separate and apart is also a ground for divorce.
How to Get a Separation Agreement
To create your own Separation Agreement template, you will need to determine the terms of the separation with your spouse. In addition, both parties will have to be honest and open about their financial situations.
Once you have finalized these details, you should draw up your document. This can be done easily with LawDistrict’s expert legal guidance and online builder. With our Separation Agreement form, you can quickly create your own template which you can customize to your state’s separation laws and your particular spousal situation.
The agreement must be in writing, and it must be signed by both parties in the presence of a witness. Once your document is prepared, depending on your state of residence and for what type of separation you will be using it for, you may need to file it with a local court.
Sample Separation Agreement
It can be difficult to complete a Separation Agreement template without first seeing a verified example. Review our sample below before you begin to get a clearer view of what a Separation Agreement looks like and to make the process of writing your own document more simple.
FAQs About Separation Agreement
If you still have some doubts or questions about creating your own Separation Agreement, don’t worry. We’ve answered the most common queries about how these essential legal documents work in our FAQs below.
What Happens if You Don’t Sign a Separation Agreement?
There is no law that requires spouses to sign a separation agreement. Therefore, if either party refuses to sign the document, the other spouse cannot force the unwilling spouse to do so.
Trying to coerce the other party through threats or manipulation can lead to the Separation Agreement not being valid or enforceable in court. If a party can show that the agreement was not signed voluntarily, that its terms are not reasonable, or that it was the result of fraud, then the document will be set aside.
What happens after a separation agreement is signed?
Once both spouses have signed the agreement, it becomes a legally binding contract that both parties must follow. As a result, either party can sue the other if the agreement is breached and force them to comply with its terms.