The time period after a couple calls it quits and before the final divorce decree is known as a time of transition and changes. This time is not just about the couple living apart – though most do – it's about divorce planning. You can perform a great deal of divorce planning with a separation agreement, so read on to find out more.
As mentioned above, a comprehensive divorce agreement forms the basis for a better divorce process. Almost every important issue addressed in a divorce decree can be settled using a separation agreement. It may not be a legal requirement where you live, but separation agreements serve some very useful purposes and help smooth the way for an easier divorce. After all, if it works during separation, it should work during the divorce. That being said, those who have minor children and those with joint debts need some type of agreement in place to cope with these issues.
Separation Agreement Elements
Let divorce decrees be a guide to what goes into your own separation agreement. Consider the following:
- Child custody and visitation
- Child and spousal support
- Who gets temporary use of the vehicles and family home
- How joint debt responsibilities are divided. For example, if you have a joint credit card, you may not be pleased with having to pay half of your spouse's bills once you separate. An agreement puts a virtual wall up between financial matters before the separation and after.
- Who has temporary custody of the family pet and who is responsible for paying vet bills, etc.
Separation agreements work especially well for couples who want to spend time apart but are not sure about divorce yet. Also, some couples intend to stay married for financial, health, or religious reasons, and a separation agreement codifies important issues. As a bonus, if you and your spouse are happy with the separation agreement, the provisions within can be folded seamlessly into the final divorce decree when the time comes.
Making Your Agreement Legal
In states that recognize legal separation agreements, your divorce lawyer will draw your agreement up for signatures and file it with the court. Even if your state takes a more casual approach to separation, having an agreement in place will pave the way for a better, less-acrimonious divorce experience. Speak to a divorce lawyer to find out more about creating a separation agreement.