Legal Separation Agreement Forms
Legal Separation vs. Divorce
If you want to live apart from your spouse but aren't sure about whether to separate or divorce, it is important to understand the difference between divorce vs separation. A legal separation does not legally end a marriage. A separation agreement is used to create a legally binding agreement to protect your interests while living apart from your spouse. Many states have a legal separation procedure that allows you to file a separation agreement with the court that will be enforceable by court order if the agreement is violated. The agreement can also be later incorporated into a final divorce decree if you decide to file a divorce. In an uncontested divorce proceeding, the court will typically adopt the separation agreement of the parties into the final orders as long as the terms agreed to are reasonable.
A verbal agreement between a separated couple will not be legally binding and enforceable in court in the same manner. Verbal agreements tend to lead to more problems and litigation down the road, and often become a swearing contest involving one spouse's word against the others. By creating a written agreement between the parties, not only can it be enforced under state family law in divorce court, but since each party has a clear understanding of the terms being agreed to, the chances of a future dispute are minimized.
There are various reasons why a couple may choose separation vs divorce. Some of the reasons may include:
- 1. Religious beliefs regarding divorce.
- 2. Retention of medical benefits or other benefits that would be lost due to ineligibility in the event of a divorce.
- 3. In the case of a military spouse, divorce before 10 years of marriage will make the spouse ineligible for benefits available through the Uniform Services Former Spouse Protection Act.
- 4. A spouse may want to postpone divorce until after ten years of marriage in order to be able to get social security benefits at the other spouse's higher rate .
- 5. The time apart may provide a cooling off period and give the couple more time to contemplate the choice of divorce.
In order to create a separation agreement, you need to discuss and come to agreement on key issues with your spouse. US Legal Forms offers professionally drafted, affordable agreements for all situations, whether you have minor children, adult children, no children, or only want to divide property. Some of the key issues dealt with in a separation agreement include the following:
- Property division. If you have marital assets like a joint checking account, access and possession of these items can be defined. The agreement may stipulate that joint banking accounts or investment accounts will be closed and each spouse will open his or her own account and maintain responsibility for it.
- Use and possession of the marital home. The separation agreement can also assign responsibility for payment of a mortgage and household expenses such as utilities, lawn care, and repairs.
- Use and possession of vehicles.
- Child support.
- Child custody and visitation.
- Spousal support. Spousal support payments may be deducted on the income tax return of the paying spouse at tax time under a legal separation agreement. It will also be included as income on the tax return of the spouse that receives the payment.
- Payment of debts. A legal separation agreement can protect you against liability for debts incurred by your spouse after separation if you live in an equitable distribution state.
- Payment of income taxes and assignment of deductions.
- Insurance coverage and payment of premiums and uncovered medical costs.
State family law varies regarding legal separation, so local law should be consulted. In some states, it may be called judicial separation, divorce a mensa et thoro, divorce from bed and board, separate maintenance, or not recognized as a legal status. However, regardless of the family law in your state, if you are considering whether or not to separate or divorce, having a written separation agreement will make dealing with a difficult and emotional situation much smoother.