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Is a separation agreement enforceable?

People enter into a marriage with the best of intentions. They want to make a life with someone they love. Over time, however, sometimes things can go wrong. A marriage may not be working for one or both partners. In that case, a couple may want to consider steps that allow them to move on or perhaps see if they might want to live apart for awhile. Getting a divorce can be in their best interests and the interests of their children. It allows each partner to dissolve the marriage ideally on favorable terms that both parties find satisfactory. However, while a divorce can sound ideal in the abstract, keep in mind that a divorce may require several steps before it is final and legal. One such step is for the parties to get a separation. This step means that both parties no longer live together. Anyone contemplating this process should know that there are generally two types of separations. They should also be aware that these kinds of separations are not necessarily available in all states. It’s important to be aware of the differences between the two before making any kind of choice about your future living arrangements in your state.

Informal Separations

Informal separations are common during the course of many marriages. People may choose to live apart for all sorts of reasons without getting a divorce. Someone has taken a job somewhere for a short period of time and his wife and kids don’t want to follow such a long distance. Military members often face separations from their spouses while serving overseas. While these separations happen, they are not necessarily anything related to a divorce. A couple may also choose to separate informally as part of the process that lets them ultimately dissolve the marriage. They might do so because they want to test the waters and see if this is a good idea. One partner may get an apartment while the other continues to live in the family home with the kids. These kinds of separations may be personally meaningful but they do not have the force of law. An informal separation may be good if the couple isn’t really sure about the divorce. They may want to see if this course of action is a good idea instead and then figure out if they are happier first. If the partners go through marital counseling, they can reconcile without the need to involve the legal system in any way. They are still married during this time.

A Legal Contract

A couple can also opt for a legal separation. The couple has two options here. They can go to a lawyer and draw up a highly specific contract that provides both parties with a legally binding agreement. This is not necessarily the first step to a divorce although it can be later. This is just a contract that the parties agree to separate and adhere to legally during the term of separation. A couple can stay legally separated for as long as they like without getting a divorce. Unlike informal separations, these are considered legally binding contracts that the court can enforce if breached. It may even include the right to see another partner even if they never choose to get divorced. For some couples this kind of arrangement can be useful in that it let them avoid divorce but also lets them have a form of legal separation that serves their best interests.

Heading For Divorce

While some people choose to separate and get a divorce, others want to move on as quickly as they can. At the same time, they may need to wait for the divorce to be finalized. During this time, the separation that has been agreed to by them will be in force. A separation agreement may be highly detailed. The couple have spelled highly specific questions such as the exact amount of child support required by one partner, how often each partner gets to use a vacation home, who will cover the children’s health care bills and even who gets custody of a beloved family pet. These agreements are legally enforceable both before the divorce and after it. If one party does not live up to the requirements spelled out in the agreement, they can file what is known legally as a motion to enforce. This is considered a dispute just like any other agreement. The court will consider the motion and then consider what should be done in order to enforce the contract.

State Laws

It’s important to remember that each state has different laws when it comes to separation and divorce. Time frames for separation before a divorce is granted vary greatly. The same is true of specifics such as how much child support is required as well as who gets to keep the family home and certain types of assets built up during the marriage. Some states do not allow the parties the option of a legal separation agreement. This is why it is important to contact a lawyer when planning any kind of formal or even an informal separation. Neither party’s rights should be compromised by planning that was wrongly executed. Both embers of the couple as well as their children are entitled to consideration during this process. A go lawyer can help make sure the separation agreement is in force at all times before the divorce.