A separation agreement allows a married couple to work through issues such as money, property division, alimony and child custody without the pressure of divorce proceedings hanging over their heads. When properly drafted, a separation agreement can be enforced by the court. It can also make a divorce less complicated and expensive for the couples involved.
This type of legal document is important for married couples who are contemplating a trial separation. It can indicate the start and end of their separation and lay out financial expectations, such as who will use bank accounts, credit cards and how bills are paid. It can also set out how parenting time will be shared. If a couple does decide to divorce after their trial separation, their separation agreement will become part of the divorce decree.
If they are not incorporated into the divorce decree, however, the promises contained in a separation agreement can be enforced through lawsuit for breach of contract. The remedies available are money damages and specific performance (an order from the court directing a party to perform the promises he made in the separation agreement). Contempt of court is not a remedy for breaches of unincorporated agreements.
While a separation agreement can address many matters, it cannot resolve all issues that might arise between spouses. For example, it may not be possible to address everything related to child custody and visitation or spousal support in a written agreement because the law considers those matters inherently emotional. Therefore, it is a good idea for both spouses to have an attorney or family law specialist review the draft of their separation agreement before they sign it. separation agreements