A separation agreement is a legally binding contract that outlines how a married couple will separate their assets, debts, properties and other items. It can also include provisions for child custody, support and other issues related to the end of a marriage. The best way to ensure that a separation agreement is fair to both parties and will stand up in court is to have it drafted by an experienced attorney.
While a separation agreement is not required in every case, it can be helpful for many couples. It can save time, money and stress if both parties agree to the terms. A separation agreement also can make divorce proceedings less contested and easier to manage, should that be the ultimate decision.
An effective separation agreement should address the following areas:
Transfer of property: This section sets out how any real estate will be divided, including if it will be sold or one party will remain in the home. It should also note any other properties that will be transferred, such as vehicles or business interests. It is important that both parties fully disclose their property and liabilities in order to avoid disputes later on.
Debts: This section identifies any jointly owned debt and specifies how it will be paid off. It should also state whether it will be paid in full or in installments and if interest will be payable. It is also helpful to determine the amount of any spousal or “alimony” payments and how long they will last. Spousal or alimony payments are based on income and can vary considerably depending on the length of the marriage, health and age of both partners and other factors.
If either party has listed the other as a beneficiary on any financial or life insurance policies, this should be noted in the agreement. This will protect the surviving spouse in the event of the death of the other party. It is also helpful to establish a timeline for collecting personal items and specify who will care for them until they are collected.
It is possible to draft a separation agreement on your own, but if there are significant assets, debts, property or other issues it is highly recommended that you seek legal assistance from an experienced attorney. A separation agreement can be used as a legal document in the event of a divorce and can usually be merged into the final divorce judgment. If you decide against divorce, a separation agreement can still serve its purpose by helping to settle your affairs and provide peace of mind. Contact an experienced divorce attorney at Haas & Associates for help drafting or reviewing a separation agreement. Call or email us today to schedule a consultation. We are available to meet in person or over the phone and can assist clients throughout Maryland and Washington, DC.separation agreement process