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Can we modify the legal separation?

Each year many married couples come to believe their marriage is no longer working. This is when they will determine it is best if they separate. These couples may then enter into a legal separation agreement. When this happens, they may work on a reconciliation or continue down a path toward divorce. A legal separation agreement is a court-approved document. It will contain definitions of specific legally enforceable obligations and rights. This document is not designed to be in place permanently. It also does not end the marriage. In order for a legal separation to have the full force of the law, it needs to be approved by a court.

Common Reasons for Legal Separations
There are some common legal grounds that enable a married couple to enter into a legal separation agreement.
*Cruel and inhuman treatment – In this case, one spouse feels the other spouse’s behavior endangers their mental or physical well being.
*Abandonment – One spouse abandons the other.
*Neglect – The spouse responsible for providing support does not do it.
*Adultery – Once spouse commits an act of adultery against the other.
*Confinement – One spouse is serving a time in prison over three or more consecutive years after the marriage.

In many cases, couples will choose a legal separation over a divorce. They find living separately makes it easier for them to deal with the issues in their marriage. It also makes it possible for them to experience what life would be like after a divorce. A legal separation enables a couple to continue enjoying some of the benefits of being married as well as avoid conflict with religious beliefs that don’t accept divorce and more. It can also provide a couple with legal clarity concerning a possible divorce. They may negotiate property rights, child support as well as child custody and other obligations. A legal separation filed with a court enables a couple to enforce what has been agreed to in the agreement should a dispute occur.

Legally Binding
Once both members of a marriage have signed a separation agreement, and it has been approved by a court, it is a legally binding contract. It is then possible for once spouse to sue the other should the terms of the legal separation be breached. This is an effective way for one spouse to force the other spouse to comply with the terms of the agreement. The only way a spouse will not be forced to comply with a legal separation agreement is if they are able to prove it is not legally valid. This would require proving the agreement contained fraud, a spouse signed it under duress, one or both spouses did not have the mental capacity to enter into the legal separation agreement and more.

Modifying Separation Agreement
There are certain situations where it is easy to modify a legal separation agreement. If the agreement is proven to be fraudulent, a mistake, against public policy, it may be changed. Should a legal separation agreement be proven to be very unfair to one spouse, unreasonable to one spouse as well as based on false information and more. Many problems can be avoided if both spouses willingly provide full disclosure prior to the creation of a legal separation agreement.

Material Change
In a properly created legal separation agreement, there will be language that addresses modifying specific terms should there be a material change in the circumstances of one spouse. In order for a modification to be granted, it will need to be proven one spouse did experience a material change in their circumstances, and this material change prevents them from complying with the terms of the separation agreement. These material changes could involve a decrease in income due to a job loss as well as economic downturn affecting a company. It could also involve one spouse not being able to earn an income after being seriously injured in an accident and more. These modifications could involve payment of child support, alimony, child visitation and other requirements contained in the legal separation agreement.

Modification Process
It is much easier to modify a separation agreement should this request be made a short amount of time after the agreement was signed by both spouses. It will be the responsibility of a court to determine if the legal separation agreement, or certain parts of it, will remain enforceable. To determine the modifications of a legal separation agreement, an attorney will usually get the spouses together at a neutral place for an arranged meeting. This is when the issues pertaining to the modification will be discussed, and an agreement on them will try to be reached. This usually provides a much better result than letting a court decide the issues.

It will always be more cost-effective to modify a legal separation agreement if a couple can agree on how they want to handle specific issues. Most courts do not like to amend or reticent a legal separation agreement. They will usually only consider it if it’s proven there was a legal mistake in the creation of the agreement. A court will also consider a modification if it is proven there was a material change in circumstances. When a couple wants to have a modification to their legal separation agreement, they need to discuss their situation with an experienced attorney. They will know how to properly submit an amendment for the agreement to be modified by a court. An attorney will also know how to obtain the best possible result.

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