Many think a separation agreement is the same as a legal separation.
Separation agreements are documents enshrining what a married couple agrees to ‘prior’ to leaving a relationship. They are a step in the direction of divorce, before a divorce is filed. It often gives the couple a chance to reconcile if the two are willing to try. For these agreements to be considered legal, they must be signed and notarized, and entered into voluntarily with the full knowledge and consent of both parties. It is best to have an agreement drafted by a family law attorney to avoid unnecesary complications.
If the married couple signing the separation agreement follow through with parting way, they may enter into a contested, or an uncontested divorce. Contested divorces are typically contentious, and may end up costing both spouses thousands of dollars. Contested divorces generally stem from one spouse not wanting a divorce or possibly wanting assets or custody rights the other party is un willing to grant them.
Uncontested divorces occur between to amicable individuals who are generally in agreement about the discontinuation of their relationship. With calmer minds, they tend to work out the details and come up with agreement on property division, maintenance and child visitation and custody. Uncontested divorces are generally less stressful and more affordable. Having an agreed upon separation contract often helps reduce the cost of a divorce.
The term legal separation is often confused with a separation agreement. A separation agreement does not constitute a legal separation. In fact, ‘legal separation’ is a term that refers to the ‘standing’ of a married couple.
A ‘separation agreement’ is a contract between the spouses outlining their mutual agreement to part ways at some point in time. Separation agreements have many advantages, such as a quicker divorce and the opportunity to proceed with an uncontested divorce, which saves both parties a lot of money, time, stress and anxiety
In many jurisdictions, the parties must also be physically separated before a legal separation is recognized. However, there are some states that allow couples to stay together during the separation period, which is called cohabitation. Depending on the state you live in, you may only need a physical separation to begin a legal separation. In other locations, you will need to file documents with the court. It is best to consult with an experienced attorney.